Juniors Lael Franco and Emma Schildkraut take Israel

Cameron Appel, Contributing Writer

Two students were conspicuously missing this past semester.  They weren’t in any of their classes, they didn’t complete any of their homework, and nobody saw them at the SAT or AP tests.  No, they weren’t slacking off—they just weren’t on the continent.

From January through May, juniors Lael Franco and Emma Schildkraut attended a semester of school in Israel.  Studying abroad is usually done in college, but Franco and Schildkraut decided that it was time to get out of Port and see the world a little earlier.  The program is called the North American Federation of Temple Youth’s Eisendrath International Exchange (NFTY EIE).

“It wasn’t about looking good for colleges,” said Franco. “I needed adventure and excitement and this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Both Schildkraut and Franco said that their families were incredibly supportive.

“At first I was hesitant, but once I started to feel more comfortable about the idea, my parents did whatever I needed them to do to help me in the process,” said Schildkraut.

Franco’s parents were even more enthusiastic.  It was Franco’s mom who first approached her with the idea.  Her dad was also encouraging because as a kid he had wanted to have this experience as well, but was held back by his parents.  There were some parameters set, though.  Lael’s parents told her that if the violence that was present in Israel in the fall did not cool down, she wouldn’t be allowed to go.  The girls had to remain completely aware of their surroundings at all times, and the program took specific precautions to ensure their safety.  They were never taken anywhere deemed to be too dangerous and sometimes had security guards with them.  Fortunately, everyone in the program remained safe and flourished in their new environment.

The program included a four month stay at a Hotel in Kibbutz Tzuba.  The girls lived in what was essentially dorm style living, getting a taste for what college will be like in a couple of years.  They were also almost solely responsible for watching out for themselves since their closest relative was an eleven hour plane ride away.

“It definitely prepared me for college: not having parents around to tell me what to do, having to take care of myself and my health, and also having to stay on top of school work,” said Schildkraut.

The girls did all of the same work that was done in Port; they took the same classes as they had first semester and prepared for the same standardized tests.  Juggling everything at once seemed to be the most difficult aspect of the trip.

“The biggest thing I had to learn was definitely time management.  Each individual kid out of the 85 had their own schooling schedule and needed to find a balance between regular classes, Hebrew and Jewish history, friends, and all the time we spent traveling around Israel,” said Franco.

The group also traveled extensively.  Some of the trips included a five day outing to an Israeli army training camp and a five day hike from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean.  They went to Poland, as well as various points of interest around Israel.  The traveling part of the semester was definitely Schildkraut’s favorite.

Schildkraut and Franco did not come back  from   this voyage unchanged.  Both girls came back with wonderful tales to share.

“Once you experience something like this, you could never be the same,” said Franco.  “It was the best four months of my entire life and it wasn’t some kind of joke where I never did anything serious.  I never thought I would come out of it with so much knowledge and a completely new perception of the world, but that’s exactly what happened and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”