I remember going home one day after my first week back at Milken following Tiferet and completely breaking down. Unsure of how to categorize my feelings, I expressed that my life in Los Angeles was “boring” and “unfulfilling.” Looking back on that moment, I can now acknowledge how blessed and even fun my life at home really is. At the time though, I was crashing down from the high of Tiferet.
With the Tiferet 2013 delegation arriving in Israel today, last year’s TIF students are still having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that the experience is over.
Personally, the hardest part of the Tiferet experience was coming back to school as a junior. After a semester of traveling, new friendships, and 24/7 excitement, my return to everyday life seemed monotonous and dreary.
Upon my return, I struggled to feel comfortable in my daily routine. Not being surrounded by my peers at all times left me feeling empty and lonely. I was used to the dorm where I could walk ten steps out of my room to go next door and hang out with any friend of my choice. At home, those same ten steps got me into a car and onto the 101 North for a long commute just to grab coffee. The silence of my home in Los Angeles contrasted with the previous constant hubbub of my peers studying or watching gossip girl in the common room. My family was concerned and hurt because I never wanted to be home with them; I always had the desire to go out with my friends.
It was as if I was experiencing culture shock in reverse; even the country I was in seemed lackluster in comparison to the gold of Jerusalem. I hated walking into an American pizza shop and hearing “please and thank you.” Instead I wanted the smell of falafel and the high energy of loud Israeli chutzpa.
My classes back at Milken seemed overly academic and flat. I missed learning the rich history of my people. I wanted to go back to spending my days debating Middle Eastern conflicts, rather than sitting in calculus class. Trying to focus in a harshly lit classroom was a new challenge. I remembered having Hebrew class on the grass in the bright sun or learning the Book of Ruth while hiking Sataf. Hours of lectures and power points were worse than ever, as I reminisced about the hands-on lessons I had loved so much. The intense academic routine left me bored and frustrated.
My peers have expressed the same sentiments. “Still today, practically everything around me reminds me of experiences I had on Tiferet. Even the tiniest memories of conversations I had on a bus: everything becomes an association,” Robin Schoenfeld ’14 shared.
We were warned that this might happen to us, but none of us expected to be hit this hard. I had no trouble adjusting when I arrived in Israel, so why was it so hard for me back at home?
I do feel that the type of life we were living on Tiferet was a much better suit for me. The constant adventure, travel and life experience proved superior to standard learning styles.
Talia Karu ’14 agreed saying, “I miss the spontaneity and diverse activities. It enabled me to try new things and explore my own identity. I feel that I got more out of those four months for my own personal development, than I had in a long time.”
There are benefits to both types of lifestyles, and I do feel that a classic approach to learning and childhood development is a prerequisite for that type of experience. I am truly very happy with my life here at Milken, it just took some time to get back to and appreciate the way I live my life at home.
I have tried to incorporate aspects of what made life there so fulfilling into my life at home, but those best four months cannot be recreated. We all felt, and might even still feel, that no high school experience can ever live up to that of Tiferet.