Paula Bu's Study Abroad Experience
"I’m currently a senior in Quincy House, concentrating in the comparative study of religion with a secondary in chemistry. Before Harvard, I took comfort in the multicultural bubble of New York City and it wasn’t until college that I had the courage and resources to explore new interests and places. I participated in the Harvard Summer School Program in Scandinavia the summer after my freshman year and spent my sophomore J-term in India. I had officially caught the travel bug.. I decided to spend my spring semester in Jerusalem, Israel, through the Spring in Jerusalem Program at Hebrew University. This was a rather last minute decision I made in September, but it may have singlehandedly been the best decision I have made at Harvard.
I had absolutely no language background, but I took a month-long intensive Hebrew course as well as colloquial Palestinian Arabic throughout the semester. I also took a foreign policy of Israel class alongside an archaeology class. Exploring the contentions, history, and sacredness of the very place I was living in for five months was incredibly enriching. When I wasn’t in class or working at my internship with the Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel, I spent my time hiking up Masada, sunbathing on the beaches of Tel Aviv, cruising through the Garden Tomb on my way back from grocery shopping, and eating a lot of falafel.
Studying abroad and taking time away was the experience I needed to wholeheartedly love and enjoy Harvard when I got back. Through my travels and encounters with different people and cultures, which were both good and bad, I was able to come back with a more centered understanding of myself, my priorities, and what happens to be a big, big world (that extends beyond Harvard, surprise!).
I believe that all students should allow themselves to take the time to go abroad. I would love to talk about my experience or answer any questions. I am currently working on my thesis (which I started in Israel through an independent study) and fulfilling the last of my pre-med requirements, so if you are interested in any aspect of my experiences, please don’t hesitate to contact me!"
Email: pbu [at] fas.harvard.edu