University of Haifa International School Student Blog
From the ages of four to six, I lived in Jerusalem. My best friends were all Israeli children, with whom I spoke Hebrew fluently, chased lizards outside my גן, or kindergarten, and played superhero games in the playground behind my family’s apartment. I don’t remember ever feeling like a foreigner or that I didn’t belong. But that changed when I came back to the US. Even though I initially wrote in a different direction than my American classmates, as Hebrew words are written from right to left, I was able to adjust to my elementary school class and felt that that was where I really belonged.
Fast-forward fifteen years, and I am back here again, relearning Hebrew and finding my place in Israel. Though I am clearly not an Israeli—the same friends from kindergarten are currently serving in army combat units while I enjoy my abroad experience—I still feel a connection to this country and its culture.
But what does all this have to do with the University of Haifa International School?
A lot! I have been able to reconnect with Israel and Israelis precisely because I chose to study at the International School. Whereas many other international programs provide separate dorms for their international students, the University of Haifa International School encourages international students to become integrated into the regular university dorm life. Since I started the Haifa University International School in October, I have been living with four Israelis, who have become much more like brothers than roommates. It’s one thing to attend Hebrew class, but to make jokes in Hebrew with close Israeli friends, or watch Israeli movies and share music in Hebrew, is something completely different. Though living arrangements may not seem like a decisive factor when choosing a college to attend, they really make a huge a difference when it comes to studying abroad. The fact that Haifa University is the most mixed Israeli university, with Muslim, Christian, Druze, and Jewish students, further adds to the dorm life experience.
Through International School classes, I have also been able to learn about Israel and Judaism in a different way. At my school in the US, Sarah Lawrence College, there are no classes that teach Modern Hebrew or focus on Israel specifically. To my knowledge, while there are a few classes that delve into Middle East politics, they don’t allow students to get a sense for the cultural context that envelops this region. While I have to admit that I originally thought that taking classes on subject with Jewish or Israeli themes wouldn’t interest me, I was very wrong. Studying Contemporary Israeli Literature as well as the Bible, learning about terrorism from an IDF soldier, attending field trips with my Social History of Israel class, visiting a museum for my Jewish Art class, and understanding trends in Psychology in Israel through the Honors Psychology Program, have all given me a deeper understanding of this country and its culture. And that’s what going abroad is all about.
One more thing I want to add before I sign off is how important the extracurricular activities the International School provides have been to my experience. In addition to the day-to-day events within the City of Haifa, University of Haifa daily campus activities, (see the Twitter feed on the right of the main page) and the many internships and volunteer opportunities, the International School organizes trips, parties, and other events. Payment for these activities is included in the tuition, and the activities really make a difference in terms of bringing the international students together and giving us all a good time. Holiday parties and overnight hiking trips are some of my personal favorites, but there will be more featured events in posts to follow.
Until next time,