Middle Eastern Studies Student Wins New Scholarship to Study in Israel

Middle Eastern Studies Student Wins New Scholarship to Study in Israel

By Jennifer Grijalva and Center Staff

The UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies is pleased to announce that Marisol Fernandez, a second-year Middle Eastern Studies major and an Israel Studies and Jewish and Hebrew Studies minor, has been awarded the Mudie-Glaser Scholarship for the upcoming fall 2014 semester.

The Mudie-Glaser Scholarship is a competitive scholarship awarded to UCLA students for study at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Its goal is to provide U.S. students first-hand knowledge of Israel and its citizens. Marisol is the first undergraduate student to earn the Mudie-Glaser Scholarship; the Nazarian Center hopes this will be the first of many trips to Israel for her.

Growing up as the second-eldest child of four in a single-parent household, Marisol learned early in life the importance of a good work ethic and a good education. The hardships of an itinerant childhood instilled in her a desire to achieve success academically, thus laying the groundwork to achieve success professionally later in life. This desire led her to UCLA, where she is pursuing a degree in Middle Eastern Studies with the hope of eventually becoming a diplomat.

Already a polyglot who speaks English and Spanish, Marisol has begun learning Hebrew to prepare for her studies at the Hebrew University and also plans to study Arabic in the future. Before departing for Israel, she will attend Middlebury College’s Summer Hebrew Language School, an intense seven-week language immersion program. Armed with new language skills and a wide breadth of knowledge gained through a variety of Israel Studies courses offered by the Nazarian Center, Marisol plans on immersing herself completely in Israeli culture and gaining a deeper understanding of the country’s history.

We recently interviewed Marisol about her studies at UCLA and her upcoming trip to Israel.

How did you become interested in Middle Eastern, Jewish and Israel Studies?

My interest in the Middle East began when I was in middle school, when I learned about world cultures. It was astonishing to me that the Middle East gave birth to some of the first civilizations.

My interest in Israel is rooted in my interest in Judaism. It amazes me how Judaism was able to survive in the diaspora and how the effort to protect it resulted in the creation of a state that some argue is one of the most successful democracies in the world today.

What is your favorite Israel Studies course that you have taken at UCLA?

My favorite Israel Studies course that I’ve taken is Abrahamic Religions: Traditions in Tension with Professor Carol Bakhos. I really enjoyed this class because it helped me understand just how different and yet similar (and I mean extraordinarily similar) the Abrahamic Religions are. I always knew tensions existed, but I never knew how much they shared in common.

What is one of your favorite things about the Middle Eastern Studies program?

I love that I can take classes in different disciplines, such as history, religion, and politics.

How did you react when you found out you were a scholarship recipient?

I was really excited and relieved. Receiving a scholarship takes a lot of the financial stress away and will allow me to focus on my studies.

Why did you choose to travel to Israel as opposed to a different country?

I chose Israel because it is such a young and successful country. Its success is even more astonishing because of its location in the Middle East.

What do you plan to study at the Hebrew University?

The program I am taking at the Hebrew University focuses on late antiquity Judaism and Christianity. I’m still not sure of the specific classes that I will take, but I hope to take one on the writings of Josephus and Philo.

What places do you most want to see while you are in Israel?

When I go to Israel, in addition to getting to know Jerusalem, I’d like to visit the Kineret, Mount Bental in the Golan Heights and Tel Aviv.

How do you plan to learn more about the culture?

I’m really interested in learning about how the society functions. I plan to visit various cultural hubs, such as Haifa, where there are a mix of cultures.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

For me, the most important aspect of studying abroad is that I get to be immersed in the various cultures of Israel. I hope that I will be able to intern at a startup company and gain knowledge about technology in Israel and how it affects the world on a global level.

Do you have a bucket list of things you want to do in Israel?

Yes! I’d like to go sky diving in the Negev, hike to Masada and, although I’m not Catholic, I’d like to attend a mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

We will be checking in with Marisol while she is in Israel. Check back for updates about her stay.