Rice Computer Science Student Spends Winter Break in Israel
by Grace Tan ‘20
Thanks to a travel grant from the Program in Jewish Studies, I was fortunate to spend this past winter break in Israel as a TAVtech fellow. This fellowship program sends students to Tel Aviv for four weeks to learn applicable technical skills while fully immersed in the global start-up ecosystem of Tel Aviv. This incredible experience taught me so much about technology and Israel.
As a cybersecurity fellow, a typical day at TAVtech consisted of exploring the country during the day and taking classes about cybersecurity in the evenings. Our teachers served in the cybersecurity division of the Israel Defense Forces. With their guidance, my peers and I were able to gain insight into the cutting edge of what it is like to work in the cybersecurity field. We also engaged with influential people from tech companies in Tel Aviv like Monday.comand Gett (Israeli Uber). These visits gave me a glimpse at what working in technology is like outside of the Silicon Valley bubble.
Outside of the classroom, we embarked on cultural outings around Israel, which included trips to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. One of my favorite excursions was a Shabbaton to the Negev desert. Shabbat, a day of rest from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, when people in Israel spend time with their families, was a bit challenging for me to get used to at first. Nothing is open on Saturday, which is very different from American society and Rice culture, where I feel there is an unspoken need to always be productive. However, by the end of the month, I embraced Shabbat dinners and these opportunities to disconnect; they gave me time to appreciate the awesome culture and unique people I’d encountered each week.
For the Shabbaton in the Negev, we spent Shabbat at a campsite near Mitzpe Ramon where we learned about the challenges of the desert as well as about the Bedouin people that live in this region. The stillness and vastness of the Makhtesh Ramon “crater” was breathtaking and allowed me to reflect on what an extraordinary experience I had in Israel.