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How Birthright Israel Changed My Life

by Sabrina Forscutt

Everyone always told me that Birthright Israel was a program that was going to change my life, I never realized just how true that statement could be.

When I first came to CSUN, I was so shy that I never left my dorm room other than to attend classes. I was new to Los Angeles and I didn’t know a single person. I was constantly bombarded by my grandparents calling and telling me to go out and meet new people. They kept saying over and over again, go to Hillel. With the fear of being rejected, or whatever it may have been that my past had imbedded in me, I never showed up at Hillel 818 for the entirety of my Freshman year at CSUN. At the end of my freshman year, I had made the decision to leave CSUN and return home.

When registration opened for Birthright the spring semester of my freshman year, I knew I needed to go. I looked at the registration page and had so many options of providers I could go with. The one that popped out at me was Hillel International, it was a name that my grandparents had been drilling into my head.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college I was off to Israel with Hillel International’s Birthright Israel trip. The trip introduced me to 40 new friends, from all over the world. These people changed my life in the best way possible, they made me realize that breaking out of my shell is a good thing, and meeting new people doesn’t have to be something that is intimidating and frightening.

Over the course of my ten days in Israel, I got in touch with my Jewish identity more than I ever had. I went to amazing historic places; the wailing wall and Masada, I swam in three different seas, I rafted down the Jordan river, I rode a camel across the Negev desert, I volunteered with children at an Ethiopian center, and most importantly I had my Bat Mitzvah. All of these experience molded me into connecting with other people, I had to break out of my shell and talk to new people at every one of the new adventures that happened along the way.

On the first night in Tiberias they had us playing a get to know you game, and when I was telling my story of how I found this trip and why I had decided to go on birthright, one girl told me that letting the past go and focusing on meeting new people was the only way I was going to branch out and make new friends. She was 100% right.

I came home from Israel a completely changed person, I was less shy and decided to return to CSUN and make new friends. I went straight to Hillel and met so many new people, including the women of SAEPi.

SAEPi is the Jewish interest sorority here at CSUN. I am proud to be a sister of this organization, that has continued to pull me out of my shell and introduce me to the person I am, and want to be.

With my new found confidence to talk to people, I branched out and started making new friends in my classes, which has worked out to creating connections that will help me in the future. Doing my Bat Mitzvah helped me get over my fear of public speaking, that has helped me feel more confident in class presentations.

Without Hillel International’s Birthright Israel trip I would never have learned to spread my wings, and I certainly wouldn’t be so incredibly happy with where my life is now.

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