Doram Wallach ’08 lived on three continents before attending Geneseo. His experiences have taught him about what unites us.
By Doram Wallach ’08
While I was growing up in Israel, my family got to “adopt” people from all over the world, many of whom came to volunteer on my kibbutz. My dad is from South Africa, and my mom is Australian, so we visited South Africa often and lived in Australia for some years. Living on two continents before I graduated from high school definitely influenced my life. I had a chance to meet people and make friends from many countries.
I was fascinated by the differences in cultures, especially among English-speaking countries. We share a core language, but accents, linguistics and word usage are so distinct, even within smaller regions of a place. For example, in South Africa, there are 11 official languages; as you go from area to area, you notice completely different languages, customs and foods. It’s like countries within countries.
I took that interest in cultures with me to Geneseo, where I studied geography and minored in anthropology and history. Learning about a place’s geography and landscape and its past, cultures and customs, I felt like I was getting to know and understand it a lot better.
I was an adult student at Geneseo. I enrolled when I was 25 and married. I met a woman from upstate New York and after a long-distance relationship, we were married in Perth. We later moved together to Rochester. Geneseo’s good reputation helped me choose it. The professors and their way of teaching made it extraordinary.
I loved the class environment and the back and forth with professors, and getting to know them and my classmates during discussions, office hours and while brainstorming projects.
Looking back, having a bit of life experience at that point helped me build relationships with my Geneseo professors and gave me a bit of confidence as a student. I studied abroad for a semester in Ireland because I wanted to experience a new country as a student (not to mention do a little traveling at the same time). I bought a cheap bicycle and rode it around Galway. It was always raining, of course, but I just didn’t care because I was so happy.
’ll take my Geneseo experiences with me for the rest of my life. Geneseo gave me a bigger depth in understanding of that world, which complemented my traveling experiences.
I’ve been back in Perth 10 years now, have two daughters, and run my own little business installing irrigation systems for homes, schools and commercial buildings. Every job has its own challenges and difficult days, but I love what I do, and that helps me get through them.
Traveling has always been in my blood: It takes me out of a comfort zone. It’s that sense of adventure that makes it exciting — creating opportunities to meet different people in their own backyards and learn their life experiences. There are still several English-speaking countries I haven’t spent much time in that I hope to see with my kids one day. The more you see what’s out there in the world, the better you understand yourself and the people around you — and the more comfortable you become making big decisions in your life, understanding what impact they could have on others. That’s a big part of why I’d like to give my kids international experiences.
A lifetime of living in different countries has taught me a few things. I never assume that I know a place until I’ve been there, and even then there will be many things I won’t know about it. It’s very easy to assume you know a place, but once you are there and scratch past the surface, you discover you have more similarities with the people there and so much to learn from them if you keep an open mind and aren’t afraid to put yourself out there. Regardless of language, location or culture, our core values are the same.
Life has been a lot more interesting exploring and hopefully, I’ll create many more memories. My experiences add to my knowledge and shape who I am — what I am, what I think, what I feel and what I make a priority in life. For example, I used to try to be very social and outgoing, which I am, but I pushed myself too much to be so. I got comfortable with sitting back and realized that I’m actually more of an introvert. I’m comfortable with that now.
I’m still learning. I’ll be 98 and there will still be new things to learn in life. We are never “from” our home. We are part of the whole.
Doram Wallach ’08 was born and raised in Israel. He lives in Perth, Western Australia, with his partner, Ellah, and their two young daughters. He has owned an irrigation business for more than two years.