This letter is for the incoming 2016-2017 international program students from Kathryn Pocklington, a current MA student in the Prehistoric Archaeology program.
Dear Incoming Students,
I am about to start my second year of the MA program here at the University of Haifa and as my one year anniversary of living in Israel approaches I find myself thinking back to where I was a year ago. I moved here from Dallas, Texas after working in an Archaeology firm for several years with my bachelor’s degree. My reason for leaving home to continue
my studies was a bit different from the other students I met throughout my year here. My best friend lives here in Israel and when she decided she was ready to have a family, I decided to start looking at graduate programs in Israel so that I could be closer to her and future baby (side note, future baby became a beautiful little girl named Yuval and I am lucky enough to spend time with her here). This year for me has been a wonderful one and whatever your reason is for coming, I hope this letter will prove to be helpful as you make your final preparations.
This time a year ago I was quitting my job of four and a half years and beginning to make serious preparations for my departure to Israel for the Prehistory Master’s program. I had made the decision to get my master’s abroad, in a country half way across the world. The months leading up to my departure date were a constant mix of excitement, fear, and sadness as I prepared for this grand adventure and said goodbye to some of the people, animals, and things I cared about most in this world.
These next couple of months are going to be a flurry of activities, especially with regard to getting rid of worldly possessions and packing your life into two suitcases. Many of you may have a parent’s home or are parents yourselves, despite your situation, this can apply to all. My first piece of advice is to make a list; see below for a sample list! There are many things you will want to add to this list in addition to what I have recommended and just by making it your brain can feel a little more organized and less overwhelmed! If you can manage to take care of the physical things earlier, you will have more time to deal with the mental parts of this move, like saying goodbye to friends and family.
In my experience, despite my list making things still did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. The unfortunate lesson from this is that you will likely have some obstacles despite being as prepared as you can be. During my final six weeks in the US I gave up my apartment and passed off clothes, furniture etc. to any friend or family member who would be willing to store or accept it. I sold my car, losing 2,000 dollars in the process as a result of my tailgate being stolen weeks before. What I couldn’t fit at loved ones homes, I packed up and sent to a donation organization. Today I have random boxes, bags, and books tucked away in homes across Texas. Everything was given a rightful place and it was during this arduous process that I decided what things are actually important to me.
This experience, while stressful, it absolutely freeing! My recommendations for you are to do this slowly and not in the last moment. Take each moment and make each decision with care. Humans have this strange attachment to material things and if you don’t give yourself enough time to go through your stuff you will end up stressing over this and trust me, you have enough to stress over by an international move! For me six weeks was enough and still not enough time. As early as possible is ideal but not always realistic. Keeping that in mind whether you give yourself more time or less, things will work out in the end.
Ask for help. What you are doing is exciting and overwhelming; your family and friends are there to support you through this so don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable (like it does for me).
Okay, we’ve reached it. Emotional Preparation. The really hard part, at least it was for me. I come from a large, extended family that is closer than close. Many of my friends I have had for most of my life and even the company I worked for had become family to me over the years. Yes, my loved ones were nervous about my moving to Israel because of what they see in the news but I think they were more nervous about my moving so far away. Saying goodbye to these incredible people had a sense of finality to it, likely because of the distance, which bothered me more than I would ever admit. This kind of a move is scary because it is not easy to go back and forth all of the time. Some goodbyes could be final goodbyes. This, above everything else, was the hardest part about my leaving. Personally, saying goodbye to my dog and my parents were the two most difficult.
Make your goodbyes sincere. Take each precious moment with your loved ones and cherish it. This is advice often suggested for everyday life: “Tell the people you love, that you love them, for you never know what tomorrow will bring.” We’ve heard it all before and it has never been more important than now. Don’t let the other stresses of moving get in the way of your goodbyes. During a few of my goodbyes I found myself so mentally distracted with things I needed to get done before leaving that I was not completely present for these emotional farewells. I would be hugging someone but in the back of my mind “don’t forget about the doctor appointment Thursday” or “did I remember to pack XX.” Trust me on this; you will regret not being completely in the moment for this.
I am telling you guys all of this not to freak you out more than you probably already are. I am telling you this because yes, saying goodbye is incredibly hard. But you can do it, you will do it, and you will be just fine. Even after all of that heartbreak, I can say with confidence that this was the best decision of my life. Leaving your old life and creating a new one gives you a freedom to truly be yourself. Cliché, I’m aware, but it is nonetheless true!
For me this was a freeing experience that allowed me to find myself again. We all come from different circumstances but I can say with confidence that no matter where you are coming from, this journey will be one that allows you to redefine who you are. Today I am working on my thesis proposal and excavating at amazing archaeological sites; I’m dating a wonderful guy and going on adventures with great friends. Whatever your experience here may be, I hope it is a wonderful one!
In addition to the general list I have attached, here are some suggestions I have based on my experience:
Do you have your passport? Student Visa?
Have you called your phone and utility companies and given them a shut off date? (**For the phone, good news! Israel has incredible plans with unlimited everything and free calling to the US for about $10 a month – yes it is as great as it sounds!). You can call these companies weeks in advance so you won’t need to worry about it.
Bank Accounts. Make sure your bank knows you will be abroad for an extended period of time! Keep in mind that while you may have an Israeli bank account while you are here, it is imperative that you maintain some sort of bank account from your country of origin for emergencies and/or remaining payments you may have at home.
School preparations and arrangements. Have you paid for school? Will you be living in the dorms. I recommend to do this at least for the first few months (you can cancel your contract at any time but need to inform at least 30 days in advance). Do you know which train/bus you will take from the airport? Do you have your medical insurance in order? Do you have all documents from your undergraduate degree – diplomas, transcripts (originals please!!)?
Medical forms etc. Go see your doctor, get your check ups and medications in order! You want to have a clean bill of health before you leave. Our school medical insurance covers the basics with no pre-existing conditions covered so make sure that you have made the appropriate arrangements with your medical providers for an easier transition.