Intro to my Trip to Israel!

Hi everyone! My name is Ruvi Ranatunga and I am a rising senior at Pitt in the honors college. I will be in Israel from May 3nd until May 28th and could not be more excited. I have never been to the middle east before and it has been a while since I have traveled outside of the U.S., so this blog will be a great resource for me to look back on my travels and share them with future Pitt honors students!

I just finished my junior year as a Neuroscience and Religious Studies double major and Chemistry minor. This is a unique combination of majors and I actually didn’t know I wanted to do both until the end of my freshman year! I was definitely set on doing Neuroscience when I got to Pitt, but after taking a couple gen ed requirement classes through the department of Religious Studies, I realized it was an area I loved to learn about and could also fit into my schedule as my second major. On campus, I am an undergraduate neuro department ambassador, work in a lab, TA for Dr. Debra Artim, and have been an undergraduate researcher for the religious studies department for two semesters. I also enjoy being an Arrival Survival volunteer at the beginning of each school year.

Outside of school, my favorite place to be is outside. I love going on weekend hikes with my friends around Pittsburgh and lounging in Schenley Plaza when the weather is nice. You can also find me swimming at Trees Pool on upper campus or at the Pete gym working out. I love traveling around the U.S. to different national parks and visiting my family in Sri Lanka when I can. Last summer I went to Arches, Zion, Rocky Mountains, and Canyonlands National Parks for about ten days and it was an amazing experience. I am hoping to go to a couple more national parks out west and also Sri Lanka after graduation next year!

The global program I am participating in is an Independent Research Project based in Israel. I am comparing and contrasting two streams of Judaism- Masorti and Conservative. Conservative Judaism originated in the U.S. and moved out to other areas of the world, particularly Israel where it is known as Masorti Judaism. For the other part of my project I will be going to a synagogue/library in Pittsburgh to learn about Conservative Judaism. One of the goals I have for this project is to apply knowledge I have learned in class about Judaism to develop meaningful questions for the people I will be interacting with during my project. I also hope to be able to use what I learned to create a basis for my Religious Studies capstone project in the fall.

Thanks for reading my first blog post! The next one will have more project details and pictures from my first few days in Israel!

Ruvi Ranatunga

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