University of Haifa International School Student Blog
I am writing this post the morning after, so forgive me if I start saying yesterday. We had orientation to arrange our placement in Hebrew classes as well as take care of any paperwork or requirements for the International School. I completed this rather quickly. During my placement exam, I explained to the woman that I am functionally illiterate in Hebrew, but that it comes back to me verbally in bursts. She decided to place me in the “Aleph” level class (beginners, I’m assuming), but told me that if I don’t feel challenged after learning the alphabet and reading and writing, to tell my teacher. They are very flexible about moving students up, I think, here.
I returned to my dorm room after that and finally got wifi in my dorm. My GRE scores finally came by mail, and I was very pleased with my results. Grad school is happening so soon! I revised a poem, wrote some emails, and took a nap, all to avoid venturing out in the afternoon heat. My room did not feel completely comfortable, though. I am still unfamiliar with the campus and did not want to risk wandering around at that time of the day trying to find the newly built library. Now that I am a bit more familiar, this will change.
In the evening, we had an orientation session, where the director of the International School spoke to us about our summer ulpan program, and the city as well. Coming here, I was a bit egocentric. I had expected for this to be more of a jumping off point for people staying for the semester, and to have them try to organize us according to the lengths of our stays, and our programs. This is not the case. The ulpan is the focus, and I believe it is supported largely by the government. They keep asking us “Are you ready for hard work?” I guess the honeymoon period is ending. After the director finished with his speech, in which he freely voiced his political opinions and gave his perspectives on politics and the Middle East, several musicians came on stage to play Israeli folk music on an acoustic guitar and accordion. My father had always listened to this music, and it kind of annoyed me because I had always heard so much of it over the years, so I have learned to tune it out. Now, I have to remember to listen to the words, because they are using this as a method of teaching us.
After the orientation session, in which they repeated several times that we are NOT ALLOWED INTO THE WEST BANK, we returned to the moadon (dorm clubhouse) for some falafel (amazing) and israeli dancing. Before the dancing, we chilled outside. I was able to meet some more people staying on for the semester (we tend to find each other, and like each other too) who are really cool. We entered the moadon and formed a large circle in the room. From there, an energetic dancing machine-man gave us instructions on different dances to do, and put people on the spot if they messed up. It was so fun and hilarious, but I was DRIPPING SWEAT, and when I took the sunglasses off of my head at the end of the dancing (which was a while), the lenses were completely covered in condensation. Ughhh.
My new friends, Chelsea, from Westchester and a Religious Studies major at Brown also coming on the Study Tour, and Hannah, from Palm Springs, from San Diego State, left with me early from the moadon because Becky and I had talked about going to the beach in the evening. Becky said that her cousin, Nemo, who we had hung out with the before night at the second pub, could pick us up and bring us down to the beach, where his other friends from the other night, Erof (? can’t remember, sorry!) and Amit, were at a hookah bar right on the water. We joined Becky at her apartment and gathered our items, including bathing suits and, for me, because I had one, a towel.
Nemo picked us up from the first gate from the university, which was quite a walk, but gave the girls and I time to chat and get even more acquainted with each other. It’s so easy to become fast friends here. Amit drove us all the way down the mountain, to where the beach is. Apparently, when I first arrived by train, the beach was just across the street. Amaaaazing.
We walked to the hookah bar and chatted with the guys in our now all-American girl group. They told us questionable stories about their service, which they are very proud of, but make jokes to have some levity. It was so amazing to sit out under the open sky, with the puff of hookah smoke floating out towards the ocean like a dissolving grey cloud every so often. We ordered more Goldstars (the beer we drink here) and chatted well past our hoped-for time of departure from the beach at one o’clock. We headed down to the waves, and all decided to jump in. The girls hadn’t been to the water at night before, and Becky was amazed by her first time in the Mediterranean Sea. The horizon was black as far as the eye could see (no pun intended) and I even saw a shooting star! You can’t make this stuff up.
We finally headed over to the bus station from the beach, and caught the 200 bus back up the mountain. I really want to get a student bus pass soon so I can stop paying each time I have to get on the bus. My friends and I are really excited to do our homework at the beach, which is fully encouraged by the International School staff. Wow. I came back to the room, took a desperately needed shower, and jumped into bed to the night.
Now, I’m up, ready to eat breakfast, and excited for my first FIVE HOUR HEBREW CLASS. Oy. Wish me luck! Today, we are going on a tour of Haifa, and get to see the Baha’i Gardens and all of the sights