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From Canada to Israel: A Journey into Environmental Studies

Jack Scher reflects on his journey to TAU and the Environmental Studies MA.

The right sorroundings

A crisp winter day in Vancouver, Canada – during the last semester of my bachelor’s degree at The University of British Columbia (UBC) -I was on my way to class. . Known for its beautiful scenery, amazing skiing and world-class education, the city of Vancouver allowed me to turn my passion for the outdoors, wildlife and all things nature into an academic pursuit. I had enjoyed my degree so much at UBC, and knew I wanted more of the same if I were to apply for a master’s degree. These were my thoughts as I entered my last lecture, which was a  “Geography 412 – Water Management, Theory, and Practice” class. Canada’s abundance of nature, natural resources, and stable politics made doing my bachelor’s degree there a great interdisciplinary experience, but I wanted to expand on this experience and learn about how other countries and cultures approach studying the environment.

When it comes to studying the environment, one could approach the topic from a plethora of angles. You could study the environment from an economic point of view, how much economic value could we assign to a resource such as water? You could approach the environment from a hi-tech point of view, exploring what technologies are being developed to better prepare future generations for challenges that will undoubtedly arise. One could even approach the environment from a political angle, studying what policies need to be in place to both protect and restore fragmented habitats. With such a broad range of opportunities to explore, I decided on that cold winter day in Vancouver to continue expanding my horizons and grow both academically and personally. After a number of conversations with both family and friends in Canada, I applied to Tel Aviv University’s International MA in Environmental Studies Degree, and the rest was history (well environmental history… kind of).

Jack Scher doing environmental research in Canada.

Initial learnings

I am now nearing the end of the first semester in a year-long MA, and the courses to date have challenged my previous learnings but opened my eyes to the angles needed to take on environmental issues in such a climate. I use the world climate for a reason here – both the climate as in weather, rainfall and drought, but also climate as in politics, tensions, and transboundary realities that surround Israel. If I am being completely honest, I have always been afraid of politics, I had never thought of myself as being connected to politics while living in Canada, I had just lived my life and hoped for the best. With this in mind, I was unaware of the intersection of politics and everyday life that is so clear in Israel. Studying environmental studies in Israel has shown me that environmental issues are at the intersection of history, politics, and social issues, and in order to properly solve such complex problems associated with climate change, namely drought, water scarcity, and waste, it is vital to take a step back and get an understanding of the holistic, global perspectives. This is why I came to Tel Aviv University.

The Porter School for Environmental is housed in a state-of-the-art, green, innovative, and energy-efficient building at Tel Aviv University. Here, students from a plethora of backgrounds come together to solve complex, challenging, real-world problems. In my first semester, I enrolled in  Ecology, Agriculture, Environmental Policy, and Sustainable Development courses. Learning from industry professionals throughout the program’s weekly seminar gave me an opportunity to learn from leaders in the field, leading ground-breaking work. This week alone I had the chance to talk to Dr. Jonathan Natanian, a leader in Environmental Engineering and building performance. Being given the chance to interact with such figures currently working on projects at both the local and global scale is exciting and gives me motivation for the future.

If I could leave you with one message it’s this – challenge yourself, and always look for opportunities to learn. One piece of advice I received recently was this: If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Tel Aviv University has a wide range of programs, all innovative and challenging, and as I have experienced with the Environmental Studies MA degree so far, finding a passion and being able to work towards a career in that field every day is an amazing feeling. If you’re reading this and would like to discuss any environmental topics as well as discuss my experience at Tel Aviv University, please reach out!

Find out more about our MA in Environmental Studies and start your academic journey at The Lowy International School!

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