Tag: Travel

Getting to Tel Aviv and Israel for the first time is a culture shock. You step off the plane and, instantly, you’re placed into an environment that is entirely foreign to almost everyone outside of Israel. This is the only country with Hebrew as the national language and Judaism as the national religion.

Guest blogger: Leah, a BSBA sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis

So, lets begin with the new language. Not only a new language that you very well might not understand, but also a new alphabet, which creates entirely new obstacles. We may not think too much about it, but the alphabet is very, very important. When in France, or Spain, or other European countries, there are plenty of cognates so that we can somewhat comprehend the signs we see on the streets or a menu of some sorts. Here that all changes.

Being Christian in a Jewish state isn’t so much of an obstacle here, but a reality check. Back in the States, we are surrounded by a Christian society that hangs lights during the Christmas months, some shops close down on Sundays for religious reasons, and many other nuances that seem to be just a part of life for us. But in Tel Aviv, there is a stark difference in the way that things are done. For religious reasons, there is no working allowed on Friday from sundown to Saturday around the same time.

From seeing all of these differences in societal occurrences, I’ve come to ask questions to further understand why some things are done the way they are here, and I’ve found myself becoming more curious about other ways of life than my own. This program isn’t only helping us learn about business in Israel, but also to learn about the culture and to appreciate it.

Bryan, Jared, Leah, Adam, and Marni at a start-up in Tel Aviv.

Bryan, Jared, Leah, Adam, and Marni at a start-up in Tel Aviv.

While there are so many cultural differences here, there are ways to adapt and adjust. For the most part, you can always find someone in the vicinity who speaks at least a little bit of English to help you out, and they are more than happy to do so. Israelis want everyone to understand their culture too, so there are never judgments passed. One specific asset that we have in this program is a peer mentor from the IDC campus. Having a personal connection with someone close to our age who can help us get around and see Tel Aviv the way that they see it as a local is an amazing experience that not many visitors enjoy.


The 2015 Israel Summer Business Academy begins June 4! In Tel Aviv, Israel, 35 undergraduate students are are coming together from six universities around the world for the next six weeks.

They’ll be studying venture creation, business, innovation, and entrepreneurship at IDC in Herzliya. In addition to time in the classroom, they’ll also embark on cultural and academic excursions to visit Jerusalem, Negev Desert, Golan Heights, and the Sea of Galilee.

For more information on ISBA and what to look forward to from this summer’s academy, visit the website and read last year’s blogs here. And be sure to follow the blog for updates on their adventures and follow them on Twitter: @ISBA_Olin and #OlinISBA.


Greetings from Yerucham, Israel! We are currently on a Shabbaton through Onward Israel, which is a weekend getaway with other student groups where we get to spend the Shabbat together in the middle of the Negev. This has definitely been a unique and worthwhile experience for my classmates and me.

As the city of Yerucham is 60% deserted land and 40% populated, we definitely feel like we have left the vibrant and busy streets of Tel-Aviv Yafo (even though it is only a short two-hour bus ride away). Onward Israel offered four experimental tracks for both Thursday and Friday; we chose tracks depending on what we thought would interest us most. Friday, I choose the track entitled “Women and the Periphery,” during which we met women from Yerucham who had very special stories to share with us.

One of the women that we met was from the Bedouin community. Bedouins are an Arab, desert-living people who typically live off very little income and resources. Despite their low economic status, they greet their visitors with immense hospitality, which we all felt as soon as we stepped inside the Bedouin tent. The tent was covered in bright color tapestries and flowery cushions for us to sit on. Our Bedouin host greeted us with a big smile and was already there preparing us tea (which happened to be delicious, if you were wondering).

After we were all situated and everybody got a cup of tea, she began to talk a little bit about herself and the Bedouin culture. She pointed out that she served the tea from the right to the left, and this was not an accidental gesture. In Bedouin culture—no matter the gender or status of the person—you always serve that way. It was very interesting to me how seriously this right-to-left-serving-culture was practiced, as it was something that I never take note of when my family serves guests at home. Our host told us that if somebody was served incorrectly according to Bedouin custom, that person can go complain to the Chief and get the host in serious trouble. This led us straight to the discussion of the unequal treatment of women in Bedouin communities, which has been an ongoing problem for these people for years.

Even though the Bedouin culture has been modernizing in recent times, women are still not viewed as equal to men and are stripped of many of their social rights. However, with the support of her husband, our host goes against some of the Bedouin societal norms. Traditionally, Bedouin women are not allowed to host men as guests unsupervised or go off to college to achieve a higher education—but our host has done just that. Hoping and fighting for the equal treatment of Bedouin females everywhere, she is an inspiration to all of us.

Stephanie Abadi is a sophomore at at the Olin Business School and a member of the first class in Olin’s Israel Summer Business Academy.

Amanda Martinez, BSBA ‘2016, is studying abroad  this summer in Madrid, Spain. She sent us this virtual postcard recounting her first adventures beyond the capital city.

I‘m back from my first weekend of traveling in Spain and it was amazing! Definitely a bit hectic, as I’ve seen the major sights of three cities in as many days (plus a day for travel). Our class of 20 students went to Granada with our professors on Thursday. We stayed overnight there and took a bus to Cordoba the next morning. Some returned to Madrid, while others of us went to Sevilla Friday night and stayed until Sunday morning! It was a whirlwind tour of some really incredible places.

Thursday we got an early start by meeting at 6:45 a.m. and we were scheduled to leave for Granada at 7 a.m. However, some people slept through their alarms, so we ended up waiting an extra hour on the bus before we even left…it wasn’t pretty. Luckily, I pretty much slept the 5 hours to Granada and was ready to see the city when we arrived at 1:00.

One of our professors is from Granada, so he gave us a walking tour of the city before leading us to the Alhambra. Granada was the last Muslim stronghold before the Catholic expulsion in 1492, and the Alhambra was the last grand palace. Luckily it was preserved and now serves as an amazing historical and cultural experience. Honestly you could spend days exploring the Alhambra because it’s not just a palace, but also a collection of buildings and gardens, the royal city. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

After four hours of walking and crowds everyone was exhausted. We went back to the hotel to rest before dinner. For dinner, a smaller group of us decided to try some of the different restaurants and bars within walking distance of our hotel. The Spanish way of doing tapas is to bar-hop, ordering a drink and tapa at each place. Some places even give free tapas with a round of drinks–very cost effective for us. We tried a few varieties of bocadillos (sandwiches) and I also tried alcachofas y anchoas, which are marinated artichoke hearts and anchovies. It was delicious, and we felt very Spanish. It was a fun night hanging out with our classmates and experiencing a new city together.

cordobaFriday we checked out of the hotel in Granada in order to make the hour-ish bus ride to Cordoba. Once there, we spent the afternoon at the Mosque of Cordoba, the second largest mosque in the world, second to only the mosque in Baghdad. However today it is owned by the Catholic church, so Muslim prayer is forbidden.

The mosque was so important in the 15th century that instead of destroying it (like they did most mosques), the Catholic inquisition built a cathedral within the mosque. It still functions today as a church. The building itself is beautiful and very well preserved. Both the mosque and the cathedral are impressive in themselves, but the building is so unique because it’s probably the only one in the world that contains such important spaces of two faiths.

After we toured the mosque, we had time to get lunch in Cordoba. I tried some more traditional dishes like calamari and fried eggplant with honey. The eggplant was one of my favorite dishes so far. After lunch the bus driver was nice enough to drop the 15 of us who were Sevilla-bound off at the train station so we could catch our train to Sevilla (a two hour trip)! So, Friday I was technically in three cities in one day.

After arriving in Sevilla we figured out the bus system and crammed all of us and our luggage onto a bus that dropped us off close to our hostel. I hadn’t stayed in a hostel before, but it was a cool experience. The girls had an open room with 6 bunk beds and a bathroom which was nice. Our arrival wasn’t completely drama-free; one girl realized when checking in that her wallet had been stolen on the bus from the train to the hostel. Luckily she noticed it right away and was able to contact her parents. She had also kept her passport and some cash in a different place, which was smart. It definitely made everyone that much more wary of their possessions. We got more tapas for dinner and that night we explored the city a bit on our own before turning in.

Saturday we went sightseeing! First we made our noon time slot for the tickets we had bought for entry into Al Alcazar, another palace. This one has been used by a variety of different royal families and had more gorgeous gardens.

The weather is so consistently nice in the south of Spain that all of the palaces and historic buildings had courtyards and extensive gardens, there wasn’t a concrete distinction between outdoor and indoor space.

Right next to the Alcazar is the Cathedral of Sevilla, a grand cathedral. We explored there and climbed the 35 flights to the top of the bell tower, giving us some amazing views of the city as well as the architecture of the palace and cathedral.

Around 3 p.m. we had lunch on Spanish time. Some of us found a small hole-in-the-wall bar we thought would be pretty cheap…it ended up being the best meal I had on the trip. I got a plate of their house-made paella (delicious), patatas bravas (a traditional Spanish dish of potatoes prepared like home-fries with spicy tomato sauce, (read: even more delicious), and a soda, all for less than 10 euros! We were extremely happy with our day.

sevillaWe decided to take a siesta at the hostel, which ended up being about a 3 hour nap, but hey we were tired from all our traveling. However we made sure to wake up for the European soccer finals at 8:45! It was a huge deal because Madrid’s two teams (Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid) were playing for the championship. The game was very exciting, with Atletico leading 1-0 for almost 90 minutes, but Real winning 4-1 in overtime. While I personally was rooting for Atletico, a good percent of the bar went crazy for Real’s win.

This morning we took the AVE, a high-speed train, back from Sevilla to Madrid. It goes about 120 mph and reduced the 6 hour trip to about 2.5 hours! I realized how happy I was to be back in a homey apartment with clean sheets and a shower (and awesome home cooked food). After two weeks I’m definitely settling in to my room here and Madrid feels more comforting than the other cities I was in. It’s a cool feeling. Anyway, time to go work because I have an essay and a presentation to do for Tuesday…back to classes. I can’t wait to see what this week brings!