University of Haifa International School Student Blog
Growing up, I have learned that “family” does not necessarily mean the close circle of blood-related relatives (or people that marry into the family)–well, at least mine doesn’t. In the US, my family extends to all of the neighbors (and even some of their relatives) that have watched me grow up, friends of my parents that have known me forever or long enough to deserve the “Aunt/Uncle” title, an old teacher, incredible friends from home, the KayDee ladies at Elon, and all of my friends that have stuck with me through thick and thin. I came to Israel and met my extended family and have created incredible bonds with some cousins. I have also developed a few very strong friendships with people that I have met at the University of Haifa–shout out to my Israeli roomies–and recently further extended my family.
The other night, there was a program called “Adopt-A-Student” where Israeli and international students came together, went on a few speed dates, and paired off into adopted families. After going on 12 speed dates with boys and girls, I paired up with the one person I could not stop talking to: native Israeli, Ayala. For those of you who really don’t know, I tend to smile a lot. OH-EM-GEE SO DOES SHE!!!! so obviously we had something in common. The other night (a different night), she asked me if I would like to come over for dinner. Who doesn’t like to eat? Of course I said yes, and wow, I would have made a terrible choice if I said no. She took me home and I met mom and her sisters. All of them are some of the nicest, most welcoming people you will ever meet. The food was simple but delicious and the conversation–a combination of broken Hebrew and English–never ended. It was like hanging out with old friends.
We literally spent the entire afternoon together. We explored the surrounding area, went to an area that had an incredible view of the Haifa port, and went home for dinner. Dinner was also simple but delicious. It seems like whenever I meet people, we eat all the time. But when food is a big part of the culture, and the meals are healthy, who cares? The end of the evening was the most heart-warming part.
They all drove me back to the dorms and during the goodbyes, the mom told me that she loved having me and that her house is my house and that I should feel comfortable coming over whenever I want. Ayala’s sister also told me that she would love to see me again and can’t wait for us to hang out. Ayala and I had already bonded before I came over but tonight strengthened our bond. It is one thing to be have a good time with people you meet for the first time, but it is another to be told that you should feel like their house is your house–by people that were strangers just hours before–and to feel like you can sit and laugh with sisters.
Not only will I obviously hang out and talk with Ayala on and off campus, but I will also visit her home and see her mom and sister. They are incredible people and have already left their mark, in a positive way, on my Israel experience. I can’t explain how nice it feels to know that I will be leaving Israel with incredible bonds and reasons to hopefully come back and visit soon!