Today I’m excited to share my interview with Sonja, one of our summer 2016 drama specialists. Back in January, Sonja, along with some of our CG community members, headed to Israel to participate in NFTY’s EIE (Eisendrath International Exchange) program – which is a semester abroad in Israel. Participants travel across the country and learn Hebrew and Jewish History as a part of their daily education.
Now that Sonja is back home and gearing up for camp, I interviewed her about the experience. Read on to hear about her takeaways, her favourite place she visited, what skills she is excited to bring to camp and more!
– Jane HK
Jane HK: Describe your EIE experience in 3 words.
Sonja: “Eye-opening, educational, meaningful.”
Jane HK: What has been your favourite place that you visited? Why?
Sonja: “My favourite place that I visited was the Red Sea because the weather was nice and when we went snorkeling, there were some very beautiful fish.”
Jane HK: What has it been like to go on this program with friends from camp?
Sonja:“Being away from my family, friends and my home from four months was very hard, but it was much easier to do with people from camp because I knew them. I think that doing EIE with my camp friends made me closer to them and made the overall experience better.”
Jane HK: How do you think that the skills you learned at camp helped you on EIE?
Sonja:“Going to camp has definitely helped me on EIE because I was used to living without my parents and sharing a room with other people. I think the people on my trip who had gone to summer camp in the past had a much easier time.”
Jane HK: Now that you’ve had a lot of Israeli food, what is your favourite item?
Sonja: “I know that it’s not an Israeli food, but my favourite thing to eat in Israel was ice cream. I don’t know how, but the ice cream in Israel was much better than it is in Canada.”
Jane HK: Tell us about your experiences celebrating different holidays in Israel? Which was your favourite? What was the same/ different than celebrating these holidays at home?
Sonja: “Celebrating Jewish holidays in Israel was really cool because everyone celebrates them. For example, on Passover, most restaurants served food that was kosher for Passover, even McDonald’s. A really fun holiday to celebrate was Purim. Everyone walks around in costumes all day and there are lots of parties.”
Jane HK: What has surprised you most about this experience? How was it different/ the same as you imagined?
Sonja: ” The most surprising thing about this experience was the not all of Israel was a desert. Before I came, I thought there would be sand everywhere and it would be super hot all the time. However, there are lots of trees and some places even look like Canada!”
Jane HK: Tell us about something you learned that has really stuck with you.
Sonja: “The most important thing that I learned while I was there was that everyone has their own way of being Jewish and there are many different ways of celebrating Judaism.”
Jane HK: What will you miss the most about Israel/your time on E.I.E.?
Sonja: “What I miss most about EIE is the teachers. Since the class sizes were so small, I got really close to my teachers and the students in my classes and I became friends with my teachers.”
Jane HK: What new skills are you excited to bring with you to camp this summer?
Sonja:“This summer I am very excited to share my new knowledge about Israel and Judaism. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to use some of the Hebrew that I’ve learned as well. I am also looking forward to sharing the music that I heard in Israel.”