RIS News Brief: Chinese Students Learn to Speak Hebrew at the Rothberg International School

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Rothberg International School News Brief

Chinese Ulpan Students meet HU President Menahem Ben-SassonDuring the past year, the RIS administration decided to intensify its efforts to foster ties with Chinese universities, in order to encourage their students to study abroad in Jerusalem. The RIS Provost, Prof. Mimi Ajzenstadt, took part in a delegation to China headed by the President of the Hebrew University, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, which recently visited leading Chinese universities to develop stronger academic ties.

The School’s endeavors have begun to bear fruit, thanks in part to grants we received from the Council for Higher Education in Israel to establish programs and award scholarships to students from China. Most of these scholarships were earmarked for Chinese students enrolling in the RIS Jerusalem Ulpan – a month of intensive Hebrew language instruction complemented by extracurricular activities, including excursions with a Chinese-speaking tour guide in Jerusalem and to Masada. Twelve scholarships are also being given to Chinese students enrolled in the School’s MA program in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

The RIS regularly employs a team of Israeli students called madrichim (“counselors”), who reside in the dorms and facilitate the acclimation of international students to life in Israel, especially on campus, and provide them with support and assistance when needed. For the first time this summer, the School specifically hired two Chinese-speaking Israelis. “As an Asian studies student who has traveled in China, I was looking for an opportunity to practice speaking Chinese,” says Assaf Amgar, one of the madrichim. “The Chinese culture is very different from both the Israeli and Western cultures that are dominant here, so it’s our job to help the Chinese students become acquainted with the local culture and society. I think they are fascinated by Israel.”

The arrival of the Chinese students in Jerusalem has attracted the attention of the Israeli media. Israel TV Channel 10 recently broadcast an item filmed in one of our Hebrew classes, and The Times of Israel news site also came to interview and photograph the students and staff.

Currently, there are 48 Chinese students in the Jerusalem Ulpan, mainly in elementary Hebrew classes, while another 10 are enrolled in other RIS summer programs. In addition, 13 Chinese students will be taking the Summer Ulpan, which opens in August.

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