It’s Not a Small World: Three Reasons Students Should Study Abroad

arrows showing trip between Illinois and Israel
Graphic by: Kayla Morton

Written by Johnathon Goodenow. Media by Kayla Morton.


Studying at a college or university has many advantages that are often overlooked by students. One is the ability to study abroad. The cost can be discouraging, but here are three reasons why the experience is worth it.

Challenging Your Beliefs

map of Israel

While being in a foreign country, it is likely that you will come into contact with ideas and beliefs that conflict with your own. These can be spiritual, political or just cultural differences that might make you uncomfortable. During interterm, I studied at Jerusalem University College in Israel. While studying there, I found several ways that I was challenged.

Recently, Israel was in the news because of Palestinian attacks on Israelis. This made me pretty nervous when I was deciding whether or not I felt comfortable going to this country. However, a letter from the Jerusalem University College, and being there for a couple of days, reassured me that American news outlets were overblowing the situation. It turns out that security in Israel is very good, and successful Palestinian attacks are not nearly as frequent as the media would lead its viewers to believe. While there, I saw many armed men and women in uniform. It is the law in Israel that able-bodied young adults be a part of the armed forces that protect their country from terroristic threats. After learning this, the media had lost some of its credibility in my eyes.

Although, not all Muslims were as reverent. Some Mosques blared Arabic chanting on loudspeakers throughout the city during their prayer times. The Dome of the Rock Mosque is also built on the Temple Mount where King Herod’s Jewish temple once stood. It is a wonder that Jews and Muslims get along at all. Part of the conflict stems from Israeli politics. Only people of the Jewish or Christian faiths are granted what we would consider a full citizenship. Muslims are given citizenship but do not have the same rights that people of other faiths do. I had no idea that this was part of the reason for the conflict in Israel, and it surprised me, to say the least.

Experiencing New Things

Israeli food shawarma
Photo by: Johnathon Goodenow

In studying abroad, there are multitudes of interesting and beautiful places to see, things to do, and unique food to eat. In Israel, we visited ancient palaces, temples, forts, city ruins, and vistas overlooking locations in which scholars suggest events in the Bible may have taken place. I tried many different middle-eastern foods like falafel and shawarma, along with several different rice dishes. A meal that I enjoyed was a large rolled out pepper served with potatoes. Neither of them tasted very good by themselves, but they were amazing together. The food that we could eat was limited because everything there had to be kosher.

group photo of students who traveled to Israel
Photo by: Alexis Jomae

Building Community

This is only my first article and I’ve already used the C word! What’s wrong with me?! In all seriousness, though, studying abroad gives students the opportunity to interact and build relationships with people that they otherwise would not have. This applies both to the people you meet in that country and those that you travel with. Initially, I did not know the people that I was going to be traveling with very well. Over the course of interterm, I learned more about them and even made some new friends. I was also able to meet and learn from students that were from several other colleges, as well as our instructor. There are many people and experiences that I will always remember from studying abroad in Israel.


  1. Jonathon, what a great article about your experience! I’m thrilled to know that you had a great trip, and glad to see you choosing this medium to let us know some of your thoughtful insights.

    • Thanks. I really enjoyed the trip, and I had a great time writing the article too. There would have been very little point to going over to Israel if I didn’t learn something there that I could teach others about afterwards. My journals and notes that I put on all of the photos I uploaded to facebook were pretty helpful.

      Also, thank you for helping convince me to go over there anyways. The news had me completely freaked out, and your communication with JUC probably was the main reason that I still went.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here