Julia and her roommate Hadassah pose for a photo from their time studying abroad in Israel. They are dressed up, Hadassah as a gypsy and Julia as a tourist, to celebrate Purim, which is like a Jewish version of Halloween.
Pictured here: me, the rather optimistic “lost” tourist and Hadassah, my roommate who dressed as a gypsy. We were celebrating Purim in Israel, which is like a Jewish version of Halloween.

I got bit by a travel bug during my semester abroad in Haifa, Israel. It happened during the flight home to New York as I looked through the pages of my passport. These pages felt empty and I wondered when I would be able to stamp it once more – perhaps numerous times. 

When I expressed my desire to travel more to my mom, she told me “Somewhere out there, there is a person looking to help young people. They will be there if you have the patience.” Little did we know that in a matter of 48 hours a flyer from my synagogue, Congregation Rodeph Sholom (CRS) in New York City, would arrive in my mailbox at Conn. The flyer included an invitation to apply to the CRS Mayer Fellowship Program in Poland. I returned to my room and reached for my laptop, excited to research the opportunity. I soon learned that the program is funded by my fellow congregants and includes an opportunity to “grow, live and contribute” to the Jewish community in Krakow. As someone getting ready to graduate in May, these words spoke to my own attempts at understanding my place in the world as a Jew in the 21st century. By partaking in this opportunity, I soon realized that I not only wanted to grow as person but also as a Jew who is still figuring out my own relationship with the Jewish faith. I thought about the opportunity and let it sink in a little bit but finals were on the horizon and my mind drifted elsewhere.

About two weeks later, during winter break when my mind was free from finals, I had lunch with Kirsten Major, the communications director at CRS. She presented me with the flyer once more. As an environmentalist looking to see the world and thinking of my own passport, I went home and applied for the fellowship on the basis of exploring the effects of the Paris Climate Agreement in a country that has adopted the treaty. Kirsten encouraged me to take this approach and I submitted the application. A few days ago, I received an email from the Fellowship Committee informing me that I was invited to take part in the experience. I read the email twice and felt the bug bite to travel more form again. Now, I just need to stop scratching and get my passport ready for a new stamp.