University of Haifa International School Student Blog
After spending half a year in Israel (partly at the University of Haifa as well as other endeavors) I have now been back home in the USA for about three weeks now. Moving home is a seriously confusing, and sometimes depressing, experience. Trust me, reverse culture shock is a REAL thing. I know, it sounds weird: how can you get culture shock from home?
But you can and you will. Just think…for weeks, months, or even a year now you have lived in Israel that, chances are, is a completely different culture than where you live and grew up.
The good news is the reverse culture shock is much easier and quicker to get over than the culture shock when you go abroad. For me, the first week and a half was the hardest. After you’ve had your reunions with all your loved ones and you finally have some time alone is really when you begin to feel it. I found myself sad to have left, happy to be back, and just really confused of what is my next step in life.
The best advice I can give for when you return is to break your old habits where you can. Get a new apartment, make a new routine, change jobs, something! When you come home you’ll be ready for that “next chapter,” so embrace the change
I live in the southern United States so I feel like saying I was most excited to come home for the food is an understatement of the year that only southerners can understand. We are the home of southern food, soul food, low country food, and we pretty much fry EVERYTHING! Just ask my boyfriend; the entire time I was in Israel I complained about all the food I missed having and what I wanted to have first when I got back. Yes, I was quite possibly obsessed with the idea. Sure enough, for the first week or so when I got back I did not concern myself with my diet and I ate all the food I wanted to make up for lost time! I will also honestly say, I have not and still can’t bring myself to eat or even look at hummus. I had WAY too much of it living in Israel! I believe food is a big part of culture so I also tried bringing home some Israeli snacks for my family to try. I found out that apparently not everyone is a big fan of Bissli as I am. Oh well!
Cultural changes are a given, but I found it most noticeable when it came to language. Every time I bumped into someone I found myself innately saying “sleha!” not “sorry”….followed by very confused faces by every English speaker I accidently said it too. That was a VERY hard habit to break and three weeks later I still find myself tripping up on my languages from time to time. When I got back it was right before NFL Playoffs which are some of the biggest American footballs game that lead up to the Super Bowl. If any of you are following football this year, you know the Carolina Panthers have had an AMAZING season and are going to the super bowl. The Panthers, mind you, are based in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina so the football fever was strong when I came back. This too was a bit weird for me because I hadn’t heard about American football for almost half a year and here I was seeing and hearing about it at every turn!
I am a political science major and my concentration is on conflict societies and terrorism so it should come to no surprise that Israel comes up in my classes often. Now I have always been an advocate for Israel, however, now I have a deep personal connection with it since I have lived there. I find myself hyperaware of what everyone has to say about Israeli politics and often very critical as well. I keep stopping myself from saying “no you have it all wrong…you wouldn’t know because you haven’t even been there! I lived there!” As I said, I’ve always been an Israel advocate, but safe to say I am MUCH more vocal about it now. In fact, since I’ve started to speak out a lot one of my professors now stares at me EVERY SINGLE TIME she talks about Israel as if I am the class representative of Israel. So for future warning, when you come back from Israel be aware that not everyone will have the same opinions as you about Israel as they have not been there to experience it. This can also be a good thing though. Since people don’t know a lot about Israel your peers and family will be super interested to see what you have to say about your experiences here.
This aspect was very hard for me. While I was happy to come home and see my family and friends again, I also had to leave my boyfriend back in Israel. While living in Israel, I would spend every weekend with him and his family. They were part of my routine. It still feels weird to not hop on a bus and train every weekend to Rishon LeZion. Instead I mainly stay home and study since my friends here at home are often busy with their lives. As I said, try to create a new routine…this could also mean going to new places and meeting new friends. For me, I am changing my job because I need new friends and, more importantly, to keep myself busy so I don’t get too lonely or miss my boyfriend too much. I also miss my friends I made in Haifa dearly. I genuinely miss my Spoken Arabic class, for example, and being able to make American and German jokes with my friends in that class. It just doesn’t have the same ring when you’re making stereotype jokes with another American…mind you that MANY Americans have never left the country to even know the difference. You’ll come back cultured with (literally) a whole world of friends. Embrace this and don’t lose those friends!
I knew I would miss all the gorgeous views the most once I left Israel and I was right. When I lived at the University of Haifa I loved leaving the gym at night and having that gorgeous Haifa view as I walked back to my dorm. Now, walking from the gym to my car in the parking lot is just sad! While North Carolina in general is very beautiful, I miss my Israel dearly. Reflecting on all my experiences before, during, and after studying abroad in Israel I can say I would not change it for the world. All the time, money, stress, etc. was all worth it in the end. I have changed so much as a person for the better since being there. I feel more worldly, more independent, and more confident to face future endeavors. To those currently in Israel as well as those about to embark on that journey: ENJOY EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF IT. Time flies when you are there. Enjoy every moment, every friend, every food and take as many pictures as you possibly can! When you get home try to get involved with something you did while in Israel such as an Israel Advocacy group on campus, or even taking Hebrew class at your home university if they offer it. Having that platform to discuss your experiences of Israel or continue to keep using the languages helps to ease the transition process. When you come home you’ll be proud and want to talk about it, so surround yourself when you can with people and situations that encourage you to talk about it. Israel is a great place… we need to encourage more people to come themselves and see why!
Most of all, you need to start planning when you can make your next trip back to Israel! Don’t let the end of your program be a goodbye forever, just a goodbye for now.
Am Yisrael Chai.
Arabic and Peace and Conflict Studies Programs
Summer and Fall 2015
University of Haifa
From University of North Carolina at Charlotte