Study abroad programs offer three of our sophomore students the opportunity of a lifetime.

By Gabriel Kucinski (’18)

In December, many of us traveled to places far away to enjoy our time out of school. Most of us came back from these winter break excursions refreshed and ready to learn. However, three of our sophomores have taken a longer one than most. Julia Polacheck (‘19), Gabi Surpin (‘19), and Veronica Warner (‘19) each decided to take their second semester abroad.

Both Julia and Gabi have joined Alexander Muss High School in Jerusalem, Israel (over 7,600 miles away) for their new home away from home. The only people they will know there are each other, though neither of the girls doubts they won’t adjust quickly.

Gabi Surpin (’19) and Julia Polacheck (’19) pose with some new friends as they munch on local falafel sandwiches. Photo: Julia Polacheck

“My parents really wanted me to go,” Julia said. “My dad went when he was my age. I found out I was going on Thanksgiving and I was super excited… The idea of bringing to life all the Jewish studies I’ve learned since I was little is amazing!” Julia will, of course, miss her parents and brother, friends, dogs, and the SDJA.

Gabi found out she was going to Alexander Muss in the summer of 2016. She’d been exploring the opportunity since the beginning of her freshman year, and “was so happy once [she] finally found out [she] could go!” Gabi is looking forward to “the entire experience, and to develop a closer connection to my homeland and Jewish heritage.” She is excited to gain independence and thinks it will “be good practice for college to stay in a dorm.” However, she knows she will be sad to leave her “family, friends and teachers at school, and In-N-Out.”

Veronica, on the other hand, will not be residing in the Holy Land, but rather in Taiwan, where her family history runs deep. “My dad had an inspiring dream when I was at camp during the summer to live in Taiwan,” Veronica explains. She was eager to take up her dad on this offer and so her family is moving over 7,000 miles away to Taiwan for six months, during which Veronica will attend the American high school Taipei. “Even though I won’t know anyone at school, I’m really looking forward to spending time with my mom’s family, and becoming much better at speaking Taiwanese and Mandarin.” Veronica will greatly miss her older sisters, friends, school, and San Diego weather, but stresses she “will come back for junior year.”

Each of our expatriate students have very distinct expectations for their semesters abroad. Julia is “looking forward to exploring Israel and becoming more connected to G-d,” and hopes the semester “will make [her] a lot more interested in Israel in our modern world.” Gabi expects the experience to play out as a knowledge-acquiring trip, and looks forward to “getting to know everyone at school and immersing in such a beautiful culture and environment.” Veronica expects the transition to be “very challenging,” but is most excited for “drinking boba milk tea from the shop under [her] new apartment, every day after school.”

Wherever they are in the world, these girls will bring light onto any campus they step on. The student body looks forward to their return and the stories they will bring back. 

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