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Overcoming Biases by Studying Abroad

2022/11/22

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Thomas, from Hong Kong, shares his experience in Israel after joining TAU for a Summer Program.
Arrival in Israel
For most of the people I know in Hong Kong, Israel is still a mysterious country with many perceived biases, say, a country in the Middle East constantly in chaos and war. Coming from this mindset, I did not know what to expect to find in Israel when I decided to apply for TAU’s Entrepreneurship & Business Summer program. Due to its historical & geographical factors, Israel has evolved into a unique place where people do their best with what they have. Surrounded by hostile countries and constantly threatened, with no sufficient supply of natural resources, it has somehow managed to feed all its citizens and also export some agricultural products. The more I understand its background, the more I admire this amazing place.

Trip to the Dead Sea with Classmates

Israel's Entrepreneurial Spirit
In the first class of the Entrepreneurship & Business program, the professor highlighted the Israeli status quo and we learned about the term “No options”. When the country was first founded, those who were here had to be innovative while fighting under challenging circumstances. This history can explain some cultural differences between Israelis and others, mainly that Israelis tend to be more expressive, bold, and open-minded. The Summer program was comprised of all international students, which meant I did not have a chance to interact with local students. However, we were exposed to other people’s experiences who had worked with Israelis and their particular characteristics. A long debate in a class session is not uncommon and is a big part of university student life in Israel, contrasting with Hong Kong or most Asian countries, in my experience, where classes turn silent even after the speaker has asked questions. There is no binary statement claiming which way of learning is better, but I am glad I was able to experience both.

Israel’s business environment is also worth a mention. The Israeli open-minded and innovative mindset has impressed the world. and big brands like Intel and Huawei have launched research centers in the country. Israelis are also taught to “embrace failure” throughout their growth. Failure is a part of their lives, and they are encouraged to learn from it and improve. You will often hear the saying: “Failure is more important than success”, and people practice “Trial & Error” until they arrive at something they desire. For this reason, Israel is also a nurturing ground for young entrepreneurs; as they walk through their steps, things get better after learning from their mistakes. For instance, my course professor had founded several start-ups and was never ashamed of mentioning those failed businesses. Instead, he shared with us the precious experiences from those failures and taught us how to equip ourselves to be tomorrow’s leaders. Indeed, everyone loves success, but the one who lives through a series of failures to finally reach success will experience joy to a different level.

In the Entrepreneurship & Business program, we learned about how a true entrepreneur prepares to kick off a new business, from the concept stages such as idea brainstorming and market & competition analysis to some hands-on sessions like documentation and building financial models. Even though the course was only a month, I will keep these fundamental and must-have pieces of knowledge forever. For the final project, we worked in groups to pitch our project ideas to each other and exchange feedback, we had a rare chance to practice teamwork and collaboration skills with other international students. In my future career, no matter what kind of job I will be doing, the hard skills in this summer course and the soft skills to get the project done in Israel will be valuable assets I will carry with me.

Reflections
The first ape who left its comfort zone and climbed down trees, exploring unknowns on the ground, proved that great things start with a leap of faith. I am passionate about discovering and trying things I have never done before, yet sometimes I will put this off due to anxiety or the fear of stepping into the unknown. However, life is short and you never know what amazing experiences you could be missing out of fear. I am grateful I decided to apply to the program before my graduation and ventured out to Israel. It was an unforgettable experience.

I encourage those thinking to apply to this program to be proactive in interacting with people in Israel and the program to have the best experience possible. Plus, do some preliminary research before traveling to the country, including its history, business, economy, etc. This will help you to get some context once you visit the important sites. Last and most practical advice, be mindful of saving money to come and spend wisely. There are scholarships that can help those in need to attend the program but do come prepared to spend more than in your home country. Enjoy Tel Aviv and Israel!
END

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