Floating in the Dead Sea with dozens of new friends, Sarah Snow ’13 (Hazel Green, Ala.) realized the Israel she had read about it in class and in the media was something much more complex.
“Before the trip, I was taught via the U.S. media, my education, and through conversations with mentors or friends that the conflict was simple. It was black and white and one side was in the wrong and one side was completely right,” she says. “I was also under the impression that Israel was falling apart. I believed it was full of turmoil and violence and it was unsafe to be there. All of those preconceived notions died the moment I left my hometown in Alabama and began my journey to the Holy Land.”
From Aug. 6-16, Snow traveled to Israel with 17 other students on a full-paid scholarship from the Anti-Defamation League in an attempt to learn more about the Middle Eastern conflict, the peace process and the Jewish people.
With each passing day, Snow’s preconceived ideas about Israel and the region were chipped away and she now has a fondness for the people and their plight.
“Going to Israel made me realize that nothing is as simple as it seems. Lives are dynamic and real and it’s not conducive to the situation for us to sit comfortably in our country and pretend that we know that the Palestinians or the Israelis go through,” she says. “Neither side is completely right or wrong. We should all work to educate ourselves on the politics surrounding the state of Israel and advocate for peace between the two parties.”
After 11 days in and around Israel, the International Business major was conflicted about heading back to the U.S.
“I felt so at home and alive in Israel,” she says. “The people of Israel are engaged and active. They are fully aware of what struggling means, and they understand that as a people they have to be alert to what is going on in their country and around the world. Their version of democracy inspires me as well.”
During her stay, Snow was able to tour an Israel Defense Force base and meet with soldiers who were the same age as her. She also went to BETTER PLACE in Tel Aviv, an Israeli start-up that is working toward an electric car-powered world. Probably the most impactful trip for her was going to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, where she spoke to a survivor.
“It was the most intense moment of the trip for me personally. I was very emotional and could not stop myself from tearing up,” she says. “He had an amazing story and one that should continue being told.”
Snow’s August plans didn’t end with traveling to Israel. Shortly after returning to campus, Snow flew to Tampa, Fla., to work as the Chief Page during the Republican National Convention from Aug. 25-31. With the threat of a hurricane, the first day of the convention was postponed and she had to work an all-day shift to make up for lost time.
“The work was a lot of fun, though. We made signs, distributed important convention materials, passed out signs during the convention time, accompanied committees, and escorted people when necessary,” Snow says. “On paper, it may not sound like a lot, but it was non-stop once we got on the floor.”
Snow remained active in the general election by working at the local Republican phone bank, going door-to-door for candidates and holding registration drives with the College Republicans.
She says her classroom experiences have been positive, but the first-hand exposure to the process was invaluable.
“This experience was much more of an educational one and not strictly a partisan one. It did energize me for the upcoming election, but the opportunity I had to see how the nomination occurs was priceless,” she says.
Dr. Jim Falter, Associate Professor of Business and Economics, is impressed with Snow’s breadth of knowledge and her willingness to keep learning.
“In my experience as a faculty member and advisor, Ms. Snow has distinguished herself in her commitment to political activism and the Republican party. I have never had a student with such a comprehensive portfolio of accomplishments,” he says. “In addition to her internships for U.S. Congressmen and working at the Republican National Convention, she has earned the attention of state and local organizations with her commitment to College Republicans including fundraising, supporting state/regional campaigns and organizing the student attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., over the last few years.”