Every Student Has A Story

University of Haifa International School Student Blog

Culture Shock and Finding my Place 5,700 Miles Away from Home

By Josh Artman, a student at the Study Abroad program at the International School.

Before I arrived at the University of Haifa, I was definitely worried about how I would adjust to living in Israel for four and a half months. I had never visited the country before and I didn’t know any Hebrew aside from what little I still remembered from my Hebrew School days. However, I was confident that everything would work out just fine—and I was right! Now, I’m not sure what the typical “culture shock” is supposed to feel like, but I don’t think I really experienced anything like that. I suspect this is for a few reasons.

First, Israel is definitely a foreign country, but it’s still very familiar and fairly Western. There are still plenty of Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and even Papa John’s locations all around Haifa (even if the pizza itself does taste slightly different than what we eat back home). There are also many supermarkets where you can find imported American and European brands—I’ve been buying imported Quaker Oats cereal for the past few weeks. And if you’re still not convinced, then consider the fact that all of the big movie releases are in English, just with Hebrew subtitles. I have seen both Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War at the Grand Kanyon Mall this semester and have had pleasant experiences both times (aside from the awkward 6 minute intermission in the middle of the movie).

Second, I made a great decision of taking the Winter Hebrew Ulpan, which gave me four weeks to adjust to my new surroundings. Ulpan itself was pretty challenging, but focusing on my class and homework was a great way to distract myself from any homesickness I otherwise might have been feeling at this time. My heart goes out to all of the International School students who didn’t do Ulpan, because I really do believe those four initial weeks were huge for me in terms of learning how to live and thrive in Haifa: I learned about the city bus system, figured out where to buy groceries, and made friends with my fellow Ulpan students! It wasn’t easy at the time, but Ulpan is definitely the right call

Lastly, I have to say that I do feel some connection with the Jewish homeland, even though I’m not especially religious and don’t have any extended family that lives here. There’s just something special about being in Israel, and I know that I’m among my kind of people. Once again, I’m definitely not the expert on how to manage culture shock, but I hope this post was helpful for students who may considering coming to Israel. I’ll be excited to return home next month, but I’ve been having a wonderful time here in Haifa!

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Marketing Director for the University of Haifa International School. Offering students from over 40 countries around the world an academic summer,semester or yearlong opportunity in Haifa!

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