Written by Israel Studies master’s student Lea de Silva, class of 2015-2016.
“At olah hadashah? Lo, ani studentit… Be emet? Eifoh? B’ Universitat Haifa… Iafeh!!!…”
This is how the conversation goes outside the University as I try to use my survival Hebrew after 2 months of Ulpan and almost 1 semester at the Israel Studies Master’s Program. Unbelievably, almost 6 months have already gone, since I landed in this seriously great adventure! And, surprisingly, this is also how I met an amazing eighty-eight year old retired Hebrew teacher at the dentist’s office, who invited me to her house and offered to talk to me in Hebrew at least once a week. Isn’t she cute?
This, among many other incredible experiences, makes me recall what I tried to foresee from home (south-east of Brazil) as the remote possibility of coming to Israel for a year arose, in the beginning of last year. Anticipating this reality was like being able to visit a land from childhood tales: would the places resemble what my imagination had pictured? Would I ever be able to understand the language? Who would I make friends with? Would I enjoy the local food? … I wondered.
Coming to study has granted me the opportunity to learn a new lesson every day: I commute with a diverse population on the bus I take almost every day – they are local Druze, Arabs and Jews; sometimes tourists from all over the world; the local language is beautiful, incredibly expressive and not impossible to learn; apart from it, the contact with Arabic speakers teaches me at least how to greet and thank them in their own language, not to mention that I can have fun by listening to songs and watching films in both languages! As for new friends, just like in my country, they come from anywhere and everywhere and even though most of the time we use English as a means of communication, not rarely we find ourselves exchanging greetings and gratitude on a third or fourth language – what a Babel tower!… The local food is both delicious and fairly healthy: the many choices of vegetables and fruit somehow make me feel at home. And, not to be unfair, the International School is like home away from home: there is a familiar and light environment; both the staff and the “madrichim” are a pleasure to be with: you chat, sometimes even annoy them by asking them too many questions, but they still remain helpful and smiley!
As far as the course experience goes, “walking the land” with our highly qualified professors and having the privilege of enjoying a variety of teaching activities, conferences and extra-classes possibilities, all together, not only opens our eyes to an endless and exciting new universe related to this land, but also creates a strong bond of friendship, that goes beyond the academic life. Their passion for teaching is contagious, their serving attitude towards us and ability to try and integrate us into the Israeli culture sometimes makes us feel almost spoiled: believe it or not, we were welcomed by the department with a delicious dinner in a Druze village and then, taken home by a professor; on another occasion, we got tickets for an Arab film and a lift back home from another one; as a Hanukkah present, a third one surprised us with irresistible “sufganiot” and a lover of the settlements history took us to her “moshavah” on a trip…
Yes, the course demands quite a lot of reading and there is not enough time to read everything you would like to; there are presentations to prepare and all the other expected assignments; also, no buses on Saturdays where I live, but, why complain? I have nice neighbours, a great landlady, peace and quiet whenever needed, a breathtaking view from the top of the Carmel and my husband is with me. “La vita est bella”!