Pace 6,413 Miles Away
On Jan. 26, fellow sophomores Gabriel Kadoori and Mollie Meyerowitz, along with myself, hopped on a flight to an experience we have been looking forward to for months. Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI) is different from any other semester abroad program, forming a community of Jewish teens from across the United States. But no matter what our reason was to embark on the 14-hour voyage across the world, we all carried one thing in common: Pace pride.
Other than the drastic geographic difference, the main aspect that sets this semester apart is the school schedule. Our schedule varies from week to week, creating a very “unroutine” agenda which is something I craved after the traditional high school career I was living.
On days when we don’t have tiyuls (trips), we have school days. All students’ first class, Jewish and Israel studies, begins at 8 a.m. Afterward, we have “general studies” which includes all of my Pace classes (math, chemistry, AP Euro, etc.). Because of the vast array of geographically diverse students in my program, everyone takes different courses. For example, it is not required for me to take English so I have a free period during English.
All classes are 75 minutes which feels immensely longer than our typical 50-minute classes at Pace. The multitude of trips results in a shorter time frame to learn all the curriculum for the semester. On some days my school schedule starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 6:15 p.m. with just a one-hour break because of my busy Pace and Israel schedules combined.
As history is such an important class at Pace, all the Pace students find it especially intriguing being in such an ancient land. Mollie explained that she thinks the most interesting part of this program is “learning about a history lesson and actually visiting the site in person.” I can especially make connections from history teacher Emily Stevens’ world history to the archeological sites we visit, such as Masada.
Each week we attend multiple tiyuls to areas that relate to what we are learning in Jewish/Israel studies. While we are on the sites, we are using them as our classroom and taking notes, which drastically differs from learning in a classroom looking at pictures. Our tiyuls range from cave crawling to hiking and hour bus rides to plane rides. Not only does my current academic schedule contrast with Pace’s, but so does my day-to-day lifestyle outside of school.
While there is a cultural difference halfway across the world, there is even disparity between living conditions. One of the strongest distinctions between Southern and Israeli culture is the formality. In Israel, we call our teachers by their first names, which stunned me being so accustomed to addressing adults with “ma’am” and “sir” at home.
I also believe there is much more of a community at AMHSI because of dorm life. We are with each other from the early morning, throughout meals and until late at night. We feel each other’s stress and go on trips together. This creates a bond that would take much longer for day school friends to create. While diversity is one of the most beautiful aspects of Pace, the similarities we all share as Jewish people bring us closer together on this program.
Although I am cherishing every moment of this trip, questions about my return to Pace constantly flood my mind. I am preparing myself to retain and spread the knowledge I learn in Israel that can’t be obtained anywhere else. I want to spread open-mindedness for all cultures and societies. Most importantly, I will also return with an appreciation for all the great academic, athletic, social and other opportunities Pace gives us.