I had a pretty typical summer for a recently graduated high school senior: working, going to the beach and catching up with friends and family. Perhaps more unusual was that I recently returned from a two-week program in China and I am preparing to leave on August 29th to spend the year on Young Judea Year Course in Israel.
China was truly a life-changing experience. I traveled to places I could never have imagined: Shanghai, Xian and Beijing. I climbed the Great Wall of China, and also got to stay with a Chinese family. Most importantly, I got to spend time with teenagers my age who, I found out, are really just like me! And while I prefer cereal for breakfast, and they like to have fish dumplings, we had far more things in common with one another than not.
In August, the teenage girl I stayed with from Jian Ping High School will be coming here to the United States and staying with me and my family in New York. I am excited to be on the other side of the table, and to show her an average American teenager’s life: eggs and toast for breakfast, trips to the mall, New York City and all its offerings, and of course, catching up on our everyday teenage sagas.
As I reflect upon my high school career, and look ahead to my upcoming year in Israel, I know there will be so many new people to meet, new foods to taste, and challenges that wait to be tackled. I know Israel is a diverse country with people from all over the globe, and I hope that, like my trip to China, I will learn that Israelis are really very similar to Americans. They might just eat something different for breakfast (I can’t wait to see what it is)!
This summer has been about transitions: from student to traveler and from a young person, to an adult who will have to be responsible for my own schedule, cooking and finances. It’s been about learning who I am in the context of the world and of my Jewish identity. And I understand that this summer was only the beginning.
Riana Sarna is a 2010 graduate of Brewster High School.