Dear Gabrielle,

I am so excited for you, my little sister, to be going on the experience of a lifetime with Tichon Ramah Yerushaliyim (TRY).

Honestly, TRY is what you make of it. The next few months are going to be shaped by you and the people around you. You know how at our high school there’s a set culture that you become a part of when you get there? On TRY, there is no one but you to shape it. While you’re there, you are TRY. You create it and make it what it is. There are tons of other things that I won’t write about, but I think you’ll be fine and you’ll figure those things out.

I’ve thought ahead of some of the questions you might have, and you bet your bottom dollar that I have answers. So, let’s get started.

Q: Is the food good?

A: Not in the slightest.

Q: Oh my God, how the heck do you survive?

A: Sometimes the food is okay, and you should try to eat at the dining hall. However, sometimes, it is good to have food back at the dorm for you to eat. (Just don’t spend 5 billion shekels on food!)

Q: How are classes?

A: Don’t even worry. The classes are fine. You get minimal homework, and you’ll probably have free periods, so you can do it then instead of at night. The school day is a bit longer, but, again, you have free periods so it isn’t that bad. Israel Core Course (ICC) will be your heaviest class — it has difficult tests and quizzes.

Q: Okay, you know I’m not a good test taker, but you just said that ICC tests/quizzes are hard.

A: Listen, ICC is a very intensive course. But you’re a good studier. I suggest making flash cards (or contributing to a running Quizlet) after each class so that you can remember the terms that you learned and not have to write out 500 flashcards the night before a test.

Also, you may have quizzes after tiyulim, or trips. I know you’ll be tired at the end of the day, but still make time to study. It’s a must (especially if you find memorizing history difficult). I suggest that you find someone to study with. It makes studying more fun and much easier.

ICC is an incredible class. It’s what makes TRY what it is. You will love learning about our past, and the history that connects you to the people and the land around you.

Q: Ugh, Shari, won’t I be too tired at night to keep a journal?

A: Oh, suck it up, Gabrielle. You will regret not keeping a journal. Your entries don’t have to be novel length, but you should write enough so that you can look back and think “huh, I remember that day.” It is something really great to have and reminisce with.

Q: What’s the cleanliness situation?

A: Well, Gab, I’m glad you asked. Good question. It is very difficult to keep clean if you do not work on it. Do a little bit each day. Especially the communal kitchen. That area gets gross as heck.

Q: Is it scary?

A: Yes. It is. But, it’s a good scary. Whenever I think about frightening social situations now, I just think: “I just went and lived in Israel for a whole semester with a bunch of people that I had never met before.” These people will become your best friends. You’ll do things over there that you never would do back in the States. You’ll make the best of friends because these are people experiencing all of the things you are.

Elie Wiesel said that “When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming.”

Welcome home, Gabrielle. I really hope that you enjoy your stay as much as I enjoyed mine. All of us back here in the States will miss you immensely, but we know that you will be having the most incredible time of your life.

I love you very much, and will miss you even more.

Love, Shari