My Hebrew University Experience, by Naomi Schwartz

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Ottawa Jewish Bulletin - mastheadJanuary 25, 2010

My Hebrew University Experience

by Naomi Schwartz

Naomi SchwartzI first began to consider studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem when a representative of the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University came to speak at my high school, Yitzhak Rabin. A year abroad in Israel struck me as a great opportunity to continue with my studies while at the same time experiencing living in Israel. Friends, who had studied at the Hebrew University before me, told me that it was a fantastic experience.

Therefore, I was thankful to be chosen as the recipient of the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University Scholarship. I decided to use the scholarship for my third year university studies.

The year before I came to study I had visited Israel on Taglit-Birthright. The Birthright trip was my first visit to Israel and it gave me the opportunity to see many of the sites of Israel in a short period of time. Though the trip was only 10 days, I was left with a strong desire to return to Israel in the near future.

I arrived in Israel in early August of this year. I came on the program’s organized group flight. There were only about 10 of us from Canada on the flight, though I soon learnt that there were many more Canadians on the program. One of the advantages of the organized group flight was having a bus take us directly from the airport to the student dorms. As well, one of the programs madrichim (counsellors) met us at the airport, and assisted us in checking in to the university. Upon arrival at the student dorms, we were quickly assigned our rooms, after which we took a shuttle to the university campus, where we registered and received a campus tour.

In the first few weeks the one year program madrichim were very helpful and organized trips to take us shopping for apartment supplies, as well as organized tours of Jerusalem for us.

Settling into the dorms was very easy. My roommates were from the International Program as well, and having them made the adjustment to life in Israel much easier.

Summer Ulpan (intensive Hebrew classes) started right away. The Hebrew University is known to have an excellent Ulpan program and in a short period of 6 weeks my Hebrew greatly improved. Summer Ulpan was taken with students outside the Rothberg International School, and was therefore a wonderful opportunity to meet students from all over the world, some of whom I am still in close contact with. In my Ulpan class there were only four of us from North America, with students from Europe, South America and Asia. This provided an opportunity to practice my Hebrew as well as to learn about other countries and cultures. By the end of the six week course my classmates and our teachers ended up becoming very close.

During Ulpan the Rothberg School offered many tiyullim (tours) around Israel, which provided a great way to see the country and to develop close ties with the other Rothberg students. Some of the trips were: a shabbaton in Tel-Hai, including an amazing hike and tour of the Gamla nature reserve; Mountain Biking through the Judean Mountains; and a Shabbaton in Kibbutz Hannaton in the North.

The Hecht Synagogue on the Hebrew University Campus provides a Beit Midrash program, for those interested, to learn one on one with knowledgeable tutors about topics of interest in Judaism. I took advantage of this program and was pleased to spend Yom Kippur with my tutor and her family.

After Ulpan we were given a 3 week break in which there was time to travel around Israel. In those weeks I was able to camp out on the Kinneret, stay in a Moshav, spend some time in Tel Aviv/Jaffa, and of course see some of the sites of Jerusalem.

A large variety of classes are offered at the Rothberg International School. As a major in environmental sciences I was excited to find out that the International school had just started an environmental studies program. I selected from the new environment program: Environmental Biotechnology, as well as the Israeli Water Crisis, both of which provide a terrific way to learn about environmental challenges from an Israeli perspective. I am also continuing with Hebrew classes. Two other classes that I particularly enjoy are: Archaeology of Jerusalem and an Academic Internship. Archaeology is not only a good way to learn about the history of Jerusalem and the Jewish people, but is also a great way to see Jerusalem, as every other class is a field trip to the various archaeological sites discussed in class. The Academic Internship course is an excellent way to get valuable work experience in a field of interest in Israel. A wide variety of Internships are offered. My internship is at Hadassah Hospital where I assist in a research lab of the Familial Dysautonomia Centre. The Internship has been a great way to learn about the work culture in Israel, specifically in research, and is a good opportunity to practice my Hebrew. With all the classes though, there is still time to travel around Israel during weekends.

Studying abroad in Israel has allowed me to both learn about Israel in the classroom and to experience it firsthand. This year has been one of the best experiences of my life. I am glad that I decided to spend a whole year In Israel, because after four months, I’ve realized that time passes by very quickly here and there are still many places that I want to visit.

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Interested in reading more personal stories from Hebrew U? Hannah and Emmanuelle Moscovitz are sisters who decided to spend a year at Hebrew University at the same time. Click here to read their words and learn more!

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