Nothing and No One Will Hold Me Back

I got accepted to the M.A. Security and Diplomacy studies program at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Photo at Sunrise in Ein Gedi, Israel
Words can't describe my feelings.

When I received the email I was in complete shock. I applied back in January and as the months rolled on and as I kept checking the non-changing status, I got discouraged and decided to not get my hopes up and start looking at other options...

Which I was totally cool with, I had no problem fantasizing about moving to a mountain town and being a snowboard instructor and yoga instructor for a year... essentially taking a year off to enjoy life. That seemed like an awesome alternative.

I debated with the idea of applying to other graduate programs in the states but after talking to an advisor of mine I came to the conclusion it was not worth it.

1) The cost. Unfortunately I am paying for college and if you know the price of DU you can only imagine how deep I am with loans.

2) I wasn't exactly sure what program I would want to pursue. I am interested in journalism, but would my job after graduate school compensate the two year program plus my undergraduate degree? I don't know but it is unlikely that journalism jobs, in this day in the media, would suffice because in this field, experience is as important if not more important than a M.A. after your name.

Those reasons were solid enough to make the decision that Tel Aviv University would be the only graduate program I would apply to.

You may be wondering, why Israel? Why that program? That's a great question. Well I was in Israel over summer during Operation Protective Edge, known as a time of "escalated tensions" or "war". I experienced running to bomb shelters, watching the riots, hearing the chaos and hate, tasting grenade smoke, and eventually feeling numb to all of it. It was an indescribable experience. (If you would like to hear a little blurb about it I have a blog post you can read! And if you want to hear from my perspective of the war you can also read my piece I wrote for the Denver Post).

My mother and I visiting the Egyptian Pyramids.
Anyway, from that experience and also spending time in Egypt during the Arab Revolution in 2011, I felt connected to Middle Eastern Affairs and I wanted to learn more. I wanted to understand as much as an outsider could. So programs in the Middle East seemed like great opportunities to do that. I had (have) a dream of becoming Anderson Cooper... and studying these relations do not only exhilarate and fascinate me but could help become that war correspondent I could see myself pursuing.

I looked at programs all over the world. I looked in places that speak Spanish because I also love the Spanish language and want to become bilingual. (Never limit your opportunities.. explore anything and everything!) However I could not find anything that was cost efficient and something that was secure with living accommodations, etc. I looked in the U.K but figured why? There is nothing there I want and the weather is not my cup of tea. I looked in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. I was close to applying to a Lebanon program but with the chaos going on over there it seemed too risky for me. I found Israel's graduate schools in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem.

Talking with a local in the Holy City.
Israel excited me, it is in the heart of the world, a holy place. And more importantly was a cost efficient program and a place I am comfortable. I have been there before and I know what the culture is like. I have seen the areas and this program on Security and Diplomacy Studies would be fascinating. Classes like International Law and the Middle East Conflict, The National Security Concepts of the Arab States and Iran, The Future of War, The History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, etc. intrigue me.

All that sounds great but chances of me getting in? I was not so sure, it has been consistently ranked as one of the Top 150 Universities in the World. That is crazy! And I do not have an International Studies/Relations or Political Science major... I am journalism and communication studies! And my minors are Spanish and Business... not so relevant.

Considering all that, as February and March came and went, the idea of going to Israel was not even a thought anymore. I started applying to internships that could possibly lead to a job after graduation and jobs at the career service website DU offers. I met with a career advisor and told her my summer travel plans and how I am worried I will not have a job come September...

And if worst came to worst I would head to the mountains (which is a fabulous idea).

I applied to a few things from event planning to working a concierge desk to writing positions ... things that do not make solid money, but a start. At this point I was down for whatever I mean whatever! I would tell everyone that I would do literally anything, from marketing to event planning to writing to doing secretary work to instructing classes (coaching, yoga, snowboarding) to becoming a teacher (Teach for America) ... the amount of time spent (or waisted) Googling possible options was crazy.

I knew one thing. I knew that I wanted to come back to Colorado. I did not plan to come home this summer, to Maryland, I figured I would fly straight from my summer travels back to Denver. I would leave my car here and get a storage unit while I was gone.

I mentioned back when I applied that I was looking abroad to study but after that I never mentioned it again so when I told my two best friends they were so happy and almost forgot that I even applied to this program.

It was the third week in April, I was walking from the art building to the journalism building (literally the two farthest buildings). I only have ten minutes, and it takes longer than ten but I decided I was not going to haul ass like every other day and walk in to the class panting with some sweat dripping down my back... not this Thursday.

Snapped a photo outside the Wailing Wall.

I called my mom and I was talking to her for most of the walk over. I hung up and then scrolled through my endless list of new emails. One stood out, an unusual email from admissions@telavivuniversity, subject: "TAU Application Acc..." (only part I could read before opening it) And then below read, "We are glad to inform you that you have been..."

I skimmed past it because it was from an unfamiliar email and at that time my phone was cracked and I couldn't see the screen well, but then my stomach dropped and it clicked... "Wait... No... it can't be..."

I arrive at the journalism building a few minutes late for class as I open the email and read, "We are glad to inform you that you have been conditionally accepted to the "(MA in Security and Diplomacy}" program for the academic year 2015/16 at Tel Aviv University."

My heart stopped... I DID IT!! I actually got in!!! I was in shock...

I had to put my phone away for class but as soon as we opened our laptops I went to my email and re-read that email probably fifty times.... "This is real... no joke." Thoughts and questions were shooting through my head left and right... "What will my mom say?" "Does this mean I am going to graduate school?" "What about living here?" "Do I really want to do this?" "What about my car?" "My furniture" ...

Masada, Israel
As soon as I got out of class I called my mom at least twenty times... no answer. Of course, whenever you expect someone to answer they do not. I then called my oldest sister, she sees my mother almost every day and I figured she would know where she was. She said said was out.. fail. But she was the first person I told (besides my classmate, Claire, who I have become friends with because I could not hold in my excitement).

At last my mother calls me back, "Mother you are NOT going to believe it. Guess what?"

"Oh no, what?"


She was full of excitement, I don't recall her exact words. I explained to her how I forgot about it and how I seriously thought I was going to find a job out here. She said she had been wondering about it and was waiting for me to mention it.

After I got off the phone with my mother Kiki walked in the door and I told her. She could not be more excited for me and then I called my other best friend Valentina who had the same reaction. It was a good feeling.

I only had a few weeks to decide if I was going or not. The more I thought about it the more I realized that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I do not want to be working at a concierge's desk next fall wishing I was getting a Masters degree in a place full of adventure. Valid.

Photo of campus from Tel Aviv University Website.
A huge plus and probably what drove me to accept this invitation was that this program is one year! Yes, one year! I will have my Masters degree by age 23. Not too bad, ay?

I can think of this as a long study abroad trip and return to the U.S with a Masters under my belt. And the price? Almost three times less than paying tuition at DU.

Oh and the campus... it is located in the "Nightlife city" of the Middle East (For those that are picturing solely religious folks in the city, you are wrong. When I was there I thought this could be a city in Florida, it reminds me of Miami, a Cosmopolitan city) and it's surrounded by Mediterranean beaches... That's like an hour flight from Greece... say what? Oh yes. Traveling will be easy considering I will be in the middle of the world.

And although I had plans to do this and that... life is full of change and excitement. You can either sit back, not let change happen and find life boring. Or you can take on change and find nothing but excitement.

But don't think I am some person who is not nervous or fearful of my future. Because unfortunately I was born more a worrier than not. And sometimes I can't help but worry about what comes next. But I tell myself, to not fear or feel anxious about a future plan or an unknown journey because these changes shape you into a stronger, smarter and more compassionate human.

These challenges to accept the unknown, the changes, is what makes life worth living.

In the end, my final thoughts are to let nothing hold you back from an opportunity. To let no one hold you back from an opportunity.

It is important to take EVERY opportunity and accept it with every ounce of energy and passion in your body... so here goes nothing...

Israel here I come!

Instagram-ed this collage of my Israeli adventure when I officially accepted!

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