Reflections on My Time at Hebrew University
Sophia Diamonds, Taipei
As a Type A personality at work but a Type B at home — you’ll discover the best experiences that happen to you, happen by luck or gut intuition.
I came to Hebrew University in 2018/2019 to study the Arab-Israeli conflict and counterterrorism. It’s hard to believe how I didn’t know much about Israeli culture or Judaism, and actually stumbled on the opportunity a mere twenty minutes before the deadline. When your gut intuition takes charge, you’ll manage to buckle down and scramble a 600-word application essay in less than 20 minutes. What a full circle.
Despite struggling to find the right vocabulary to articulate this, at the time, deciding to study in Jerusalem was largely because I was fed up with the climate of academia at home. Success driven, competitive, and the feeling of boredom from hearing the same one-sided talking points. Jerusalem seemed a world away and the humble opportunity to observe life in a conflict.
You’ll realise how much there is that you don’t know. The corridors of the Boyar Building (Rothberg) were mind palaces permeating with conversations full of depth and empathy between the students and faculty. The University attracts a certain type of person — deep in thought, mature, resilient, and innovative. Not just book smart.
I can also go on about why Hebrew U is an amazing institution home to Nobel Prize laureates. But the most defining moments echo in the shared experiences with people over a meal at the Scopus student village. Food has an understated way of bringing us together when differences abound or when we are unable to find the right words.
A resonating memory is during a class when our Israeli economics professor brought falafel, pita, and hummus to share. It was so random but the gesture made us feel right at home! I smile thinking about our gatherings over challah bread, sufganiyot, latkes, and rummikub. With friends we habitually gathered in my apartment to eat a Shabbat meal together, where each person cooked a meal from their home country. On Friday nights we walked to Ma’alot Dafna (an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood) to participate in Shabbat dinner with the Machlis family. It’s amazing to see people come together and be present, rid of phones or distractions. The memories we share have travelled into conversations at dinner tables across the world — in Vancouver or Taipei where I now reside.
Outside of campus, I worked as an intern for Israel’s Center for International Migration and Integration. So cool to be part of the Israeli work culture! As anyone knows there’s a distinct Sabra ethos — hard on the outside, soft on the inside, like a prickly pear. Canadian politeness may only get you so far.
Since returning to Vancouver, my time at Hebrew University inspired a complete change of goals from the humanities towards the hard sciences. It’s thrilling to study the politics of conflict resolution —this time on a “biological” scale. Taking interest in human physiology and disease, I’m a current pre-medical student aspiring towards Emergency Medicine. The international exposure through Hebrew U has been valuable towards improving essential skills like cross-cultural communications and the ability to work interchangeably between different aspects of health.
The experience would not be possible without the generosity of CFHU and the Israel Asper National Scholarship.