I came, I saw, I experienced and I returned! “Lama?” you may ask… and I am not referring to the animal but “Why?” in Hebrew. Israel- the land of milk and honey- I heard it was called, never thought about it before last year and yet when I embarked on a one month summer exchange program to Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this sugary and creamy land changed my outlook and perspective of life! I personally don’t like sweets and if you must know I am lactose intolerant, but once I had a taste of life here last summer I wanted to return and that’s all I thought about for the next six months till I arrived back at Rothberg International School (RIS) to complete the Undergraduate Study Abroad program.
From the vibrant historical atmosphere in Jerusalem or the crazy and wild cultural scene in Tel Aviv, to the green scenery of the north or the scorching sun of the Negev, as well as the truly unique academic experience I had at RIS, all I could think and talk about night and day was coming back to study at Hebrew U.
What happened? I am not sure myself, and it’s hard to put it into words, but as I got on the plane this past January to return and heard the chanting of “TLV! TLV! TLV!” from three guys boarding ahead of me I couldn’t contain my excitement and jumped to join them…I was headed to Jerusalem but the chant doesn’t quite work the same “JRSLM! JRSLM! JRSLM…” No flow… I was still psyched though.
So what is experiencing student life in Jerusalem?
The people, the food, the land, it’s all so unique and unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. Nonetheless walking down the city streets one has a sense of familiarity as European and Mediterranean culture abounds, yet is distinctively fused with the local traditions and history of the Middle East.
I walk down a street through the market and hear Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, English, French, German, Russian and in this “balagan” (“mess/chaos” in Hebrew) of words I myself get all mixed up speaking three different languages in one sentence as someone approaches me. I say, “Qué?” “What?” “Ma?”… Aaahhh!…I ride my bike through Jerusalem and skirt through Mea Shearim, pass the Armenian Quarter of the Old City, the Russian Compound, and the German Colony. I end up near the Zoo and realize I have just seen, and heard, a mosaic of cultures while crossing Jerusalem.
Back at school I meet students from all around the world. They are loud, fun and friendly, and highly curious of why I am here to study. The campus is beautiful, the professors are experts in their field – with many of them directly involved in policy making (I study International Relations) – and the food is delicious!
“Have you tried the difference between North American hummus and Israeli Hummus?” I ask them. “You are blessed” I say, “I am addicted to this stuff and it’s nowhere near as good back home!”
Anyway, I digress with the Hummus, but student life here is pretty awesome! Apart from the really cool people one gets to meet and the highly experienced professors one gets to learn from, one of the most enriching experiences must be the ability one has to travel through Israel and the Middle East/ European region. This is where all the hours of studying come alive, and I get to see the places, people and areas which I’ve studied. I get to practice the language and really immerse myself in Israeli/Middle Eastern culture.
From the one hour it takes to get to Tel Aviv when one is looking for a rocking time, to the time it takes to cross the Negev and see the tribes of Bedouin still living in the desert, or to the time it takes to explore the Old City of Jerusalem, every single minute seems to bring a fascinating view, a new experience to interact with locals and practice Hebrew or Arabic, the opportunity to make new friendships, and of course the chance to get to explore and use that RIS class-time absorbed knowledge to explain to your new friends why this or that is important!
I hope you all are having as great a time as I am!
Thank you for reading