Spending the summer abroad exploring a foreign country definitely has its appeal for high school students. And in the last few years, Israel has become a popular destination for teens and college students, evoking images of sun-soaked beaches, exotic markets, and rugged but friendly Sabras.
Parents, on the other hand, can be a harder sell. They want to get the most value for their money, and they expect you to do something that's also educational and character-building, not just fun. The truth is, however, that quite often parents fail to recognize many of the benefits of overseas summer trips. You might have even overlooked some yourself. That's why we've composed a list of the three most important things your parents absolutely must know about going to Israel for the summer.
#1 - More than just beaches and touring
All too often parents suffer from the misconception that summer trips abroad, particularly to places like Israel that are known for their beaches, end up being little more than glorified beach excursions and walking tours. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today, Israeli summer programs for teens offer diverse packages to give a well-rounded experience.
Of course you'll get to tour the country and enjoy the sun, surf, and sand. But you'll also learn about the country in a broader sense and get to understand its diversity, experiencing its rich cultural tapestry first hand. You'll see the Western Wall and Masada, but understanding Israel also means facing its present, not just its past. That's why today more programs include "mifgashim", or meetings with Israeli teenagers to get a broader perspective on what life in the country is like.
Experiencing Israel also means gaining new skills and knowledge. There are comprehensive packages including various tracks, each emphasizing different types of experiences. If you're looking for physical challenge, for example, there's an Israeli self defense track. Some tracks emphasize the innovative side of Israeli culture, teaching skills like entrepreneurship and innovation, while others focus on Hebrew language skills involvement in Israeli communities.
#2 - It's great for college
Another point parents often miss is how helpful the right kind of trips abroad can be in preparing you for college. On the one hand, the kinds of experiences you rack up are great for college applications. Learning a new language, or picking up new skills like martial arts or sharpening your business acumen are great ways to boost your student resume.
On the other hand, Israel's also the perfect place to broaden your horizons and open your mind. It's the place where Africa, Asia, and Europe meet, where history and modernity mingle, and where the three great religions of the West converge. It's a great way to transition from the summer camps of your younger years to college life.
#3 - You'll come back more mature and independent
Discovering a new country on your own, away from your parents and on your own terms, is a priceless maturing experience. It'll be the first big thing you've done away from them; the first time you'll be interacting outside of your comfort zone independently. And since it is more than just touring, you'll be dealing with all sorts of new challenges and encountering new kinds of opportunities without the training wheels.
If not now, then when?
The most important thing for your parents to realize is that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you. You can always visit other countries, but unless you plan on learning overseas for college, chances are this is your only shot at getting these kinds of experiences and get a feel for living in another country, rather than just visiting as a tourist. After college, you won't have the time to just out and try so many new things, unencumbered by work.
So ask your parents - and yourself: if not now, then when?
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