Growing up in Long Island, New York, Talia Kovacs was raised with a strong sense of feminism and a love for Judaism. When it came time to choose a school to earn her undergraduate degree, Talia knew there was no other choice but the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary. She applied and was accepted "early decision."
Yet, she will be the first to say that the Talia who began her studies at List College is not the same Talia who graduated in May 2010. Wanting to become a teacher, Talia came to List College, as she describes, "leading this typical life where I wanted to teach, but did not think that I was adventurous enough to teach anywhere besides an American suburb." As a student in the Joint Program, however, she devoted her time to her major of Jewish Gender and Women's Studies at List College and African Dance at Columbia University.
Talia's transformation was influenced by her decision to study abroad. In 2008, she went to Brazil through Columbia's Summer Ecosystem Experience for Undergraduates program and spent five weeks in the Atlantic rainforest of Sao Paolo, Brazil, learning biology. Says Talia, "The trip reinforced my confidence in my ability to study science, and sparked my desire to travel." The following year, Talia went abroad to Ghana to study African history—again through Columbia University—and lived with a local family for four months: "It was an empowering and impactful trip. I learned so much about their educational system, and also got to participate in an African dance troupe."
These immersions into different cultures encouraged Talia to think outside the suburban classroom she previously felt destined for. Today, she leaves JTS with a three-year commitment to teach in Washington DC through Teach for America. Thankfully for Talia, her new apartment is in a neighborhood that has a great drum circle, and she's looking forward to joining.
Looking back on her education at List College, Talia is keen to point out that her classes on Perspectives on Gender and Education with Dr. Shira Epstein, Images of Eve in the Hebrew Bible with Dr. Anne Lapidus Lerner, and Medieval Jewish History with Dr. Benjamin Gampel were particularly helpful and engaging.
As she sets off for her next adventure, Talia leaves JTS with the knowledge, confidence, and skills she needs to effect change wherever she lands—from the suburbs to the jungles and everywhere in between.
Talia Kovacs on studying abroad: