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Student Profile: Zahava Mandelbaum

Student Profile: Zahava Mandelbaum

March 16, 2011

Negev Development & Community Programs


Zahava Mandelbaum and Israeli President Shimon Peres

Ginsburg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program
Spring 2011
Age: 22
Hometown: Great Neck, New York

Why did you choose BGU?
I’d been to Israel before on a gap year program at a seminary in Jerusalem and had traveled all over the country. This time I wanted to feel connected to one part of Israel. I always dreamed of living in the desert. I also really wanted to use my Hebrew.

What do you like most about BGU? The Ginsburg-Ingerman Overseas Program (OSP)?
I loved the tiulim (trips) we did with the whole OSP group once a month. No other study abroad program in Israel does a trip with everyone on the program. With a small group, we were able to really get to know one another and enjoy each other’s company.

What special opportunities did you have at BGU?
I lived in an Israeli student village called Ashalim which was a bus ride from Beer-Sheva. This was an incredible experience of living with Israel students. I not only got to connect with one part of Israel, I got the chance to be part of a community. During Passover, there was building week at Ashalim where hundreds of Israelis came to build houses in the Negev. All the residents got a chance to personally meet Israel’s President Shimon Peres, including me.

Do you also volunteer?
Yes, I had the chance to volunteer in a Bedouin village. We played with the children, planted a garden and set up a greenhouse.

What have you learned that surprised you?
I surprised myself a lot that I felt so comfortable right away at BGU. I was also surprised how much I really needed to know Hebrew in Beer-Sheva. People on the street would speak to me in Hebrew. I was used to people speaking to me in English in Jerusalem.

What do you miss most about being in Israel?
The people – I met some of the most incredible people and they’re all still there. The Negev – I miss running in the desert and being always surrounded by nature.

How has studying abroad at BGU impacted your life now that you’re back in the United States?
When I came back, I switched my major to English. I have such a difference lens on Israel now. I learned so much about the country from the Israeli students I met. I want to be a better writer, so I can share what I learned with others.

Click here to learn more about studying abroad at BGU.