Archive | October, 2012

Out and About

30 Oct

I had a very fun day yesterday exploring the local area. Before I jump into that – I know what you are thinking, “Doesn’t Mary ever go to school?” I promise you I do. I have classes all day Sunday and half day Wednesday. Right now, that leave A LOT of free time. Hence the excursions. But I promise I am still reading plenty and today I’ll be writing a response paper about a book I’ve been reading. It’s not all eating Bon Bons beachside, I promise! I will talk more about academic stuff after I tell you about yesterday.

Yesterday, my friend, Victoria and I took a bus to a small Druze village just north of campus. Since we didn’t have any classes – we decided to check it out. It’s literally maybe a 15 minute bus ride past campus. We had heard that it was a much cheaper place to buy stuff but not many students went that way. We jumped off at an interesting looking stop and just poked around. We stumbled across this store that from the outside looked ramshackled at best. We decided to go inside to see what they had. We discovered the neatest home goods store that was DIRT CHEAP. I bought two gorgeous Morrocan glasses for wine and a tiny handcrafted bowl to hold my earrings. I spent the equivalent of $7. I have my eye on an awesome, cuddly blanket that I may go back for! Especially now that the evening are getting so cool. Afterwards, we were kind of wandering when we could smell some food. We followed our noses to a hole in the wall restaurant above a shop. We weren’t even sure it was a restaurant at first because there was only a sign in the parking lot (a simple sketch of a fish and an arrow) but nothing on the door. Once we were assured it was a restaurant, they escorted us into the main room that had fantastic views of the whole village and all the way down to Haifa Bay. The only one waiter spoke English and he helped us. He explained that they did not have menus in English but suggested we have “a meat and a fish.” We agreed after pointing out we were grad schools and not entirely rich. He promised what he would bring would be very good but not expensive. He also explained that the salad course was free. That was perfect!

We were busy admiring the view when he walked up with our “salads.” He puts on the table eight little boats of various items – marinated zucchini, tuna salad, baba ganoush, roasted eggplant, crab, tahini, carrots in sweet chili sauce and more! Then comes a big plate with homemade hummus and several pitas, along with three mini salads. I would post photos but my internet is being dramatic – I will post some soon! We could have made a meal out of this alone. Then after we gorge ourselves on this – out comes a massive fish (we were able to piece together it was some kind of fresh snapper) and a big steak. It was all so, so good! We ate ourselves silly. After our food fest, the waiter brought us two large mint teas. He went outside, picked fresh mint, put it in our cups and then filled it with hot water. He brought a small plate with a few stems of lemongrass to add too if we liked. Even that was tasty! We were getting worried about how much everything would cost since we hadn’t seen a menu. We were stunned to discover this massive lunch only cost us around $23/person! I know that’s expensive for your typical lunch but I was still full at dinnertime and I have no desire yet for breakfast. He even packed up the leftovers for us to take with us – yay! I will be eating leftovers for a while. We literally waddled our way out of the restaurant. We were too stuffed to explore much more for that day. We headed back to Haifa to relax and do some more reading.

On an academic front – I had one new class this week – The Final Solution. It is being taught by the Senior Historian at Yad Vashem. I liken this to the Senior Art Director at the Louvre teaching art students. We are so lucky!! It’s a great class and I can already tell I will learn A LOT from this professor. He will make us work hard, but it will be worth it.

On Sunday, our Program Director, Yael brought in many people to discuss potential internship sites on Sunday evening. We have so many options! Many of the opportunities required language skills beyond English or Hebrew so they are automatically out for me but there are several I am incredibly interested in. The two I am most excited about are in Jerusalem. We will have funding for our transportation back and forth from Haifa to Jerusalem (or any other internship site) so that will help greatly. They only required a commitment of one full day a week and by bus, it’s a two hour trip each direction to Jerusalem. I can take my readings with me and do homework on the bus too. The first opportunity I am interested in is working with the Oral History Department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They just received 1,500 interviews of people who were children during the Holocaust and instead of being interviewed generally about their experiences – the interviews were conducted by psychologists. The interviews need abstracts done on them. It sounds incredibly fascinating. They have several other super interesting projects going on too that I would be happy to work on but this one really caught my attention.  The second internship I would like to do is working with Yad Vashem in the Righteous Among the Nations department. This is the area of the museum that concentrates on righteous gentiles. They desperately need researchers and transcribers. It’s right up my alley as far as my area of interest. They strongly encourage people with other language skills but I emailed the Director seperately and she assured me that they still had work for English speakers. We will see. I will keep you posted on where I get placed (we get to list our order of preference and when we’d like to intern – the actual placement is out of our hands).

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Currently…

27 Oct

So as of today, I have been away (away is a term preferred by a good friend, he hates for me to say gone) for ten days. I am no expert on Israel by any stretch but I thought it would be fun to summarize my general feelings about how I’m feeling right now. For ease of collecting my thoughts, I’m going to use a style I’ve seen several other blogs use and that a friend recommended as a writing exercise – it’s best called “Currently.” I might do this exercise once in a while just to check in with where I am and what I’m feeling.

Currently…

feeling… a little quiet — I have a lot of reading to get through today so I’m trying to keep to myself so I can focus and get it done.

reading… four chapters of a book called “Prague in Black” about the siege of Prague during the Second World War. Okay, I’ll admit to catching up on favorite blogs and websites between chapters too.

researching… potential thesis advisors and what research has already been done in my area of interest. In case I’ve never said it – I’m most interested in the underground resistance, especially non-Jews who saved people from the Nazis or as they are referred to here in Israel – the Righteous Gentiles. I also have an interest in smaller minority groups who were also persecuted – Freemasons, Girl Scouts (did you know they were targeted? Yeah, exactly), and others.

longing… for some barbecue! Outside of the rainy, stormy weather we had yesterday – it’s been perfect barbecuing weather. I’ve been dreaming of tasty grilled burgers and beer brats.

laughing… at my friend, Victoria who was desperate for red meat yesterday so she went to a hamburger place near campus before Shabbat. She smuggled a slice of cheese into the restaurant to put on her burger. She said she was so jumpy and nervous that she couldn’t go through with it. She ended up having the waiter pack everything up for her and took it home so she could enjoy her “homemade” cheeseburger with no guilt!

looking… forward to learning more about internship opportunities tomorrow. I didn’t realize they were available to us. Though I don’t understand how we can do an internship at Yad Vashem (THE Holocaust museum in Israel) in Jerusalem when it’s a two+ hour train ride each way. I’m curious to hear more though.

eating… some fantastic fresh wheat bread packed full of pumpkin seeds that I bought at the shuk. It goes great with the cherry jam I bought there as well. It gets equally as well with cheese too! Shoot, now I’m craving grilled cheese sandwiches. Guess I know what I’m cooking for lunch!

hoping… that our crazy busy day tomorrow doesn’t kill us. Ha ha! On Sundays we have class from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Last week, it was broken up by a city tour. This week, we have a two hour break for a campus-wide ceremony honoring the death of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

contemplating… rather to do a thesis or the comprehensive exam. I thought I had mostly decided on the thesis but after having an extensive conversation with two friends last night after Shabbat dinner, I am rethinking my choice. I also peppered a good friend in the US, who is also starting her Master’s program, about which she chose and why.

drinking… more of my decaf instant coffee. I’m too cheap to get rid of it. And the more I look at it, the more I’m not entirely convinced that it is decaf. Maybe I should drink a ton of it and see if I get jittery. Ha ha!  I have also fallen in love with lemon mint drinks here. Always done fresh and so, so good!

missing… the friends and loved ones back home. Someone go pet my cat for me, please. And give my parents a big hug.

listening… to someone outside of my window softly playing their guitar. It instantly made me think of GC as soon as I heard it.

enjoying… the tradition of Shabbat. Last night the dorm Social Directors hosted a Shabbat dinner for the international students. They sang songs, explained the various blessings and served tasty food. Yes, it is a bit of a pain that everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) shuts down from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday but I do admire the concept of stopping in your hectic schedule to just enjoy the quiet and being thankful for what you have. I like the thought of preparing for your Shabbat meal – a large meal with friends or family – for days in advance rather it’s cooking or buying pretty flowers for the table. Granted, I do not observe Shabbat in the traditional way by not engaging in restricted activities like cooking or working. However, I just appreciate the thought of taking the time to enjoy a meal and the company of loved ones amid a typically crazy week. This a concept I hope to bring home with me.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

26 Oct

It’s a dark and stormy day here in Haifa. We had so much thunder and lightening last night – it didn’t make for the most restful sleep. At one point, there was such a loud clap of thunder that shook the building – I jumped out of bed and ran into the doorway because in my sleepy state, I thought it was an earthquake. The funny part was – two of my flatmates jumped out of bed too. We had a lovely 2 a.m. chat about the weather. Ha ha!  We currently have no power, though it flickers once in a while.

Outside of the rainy weather, all is well in Haifa. Yesterday, I went exploring with some friends. I ended up buying two pillows since the single one they provided when I checked into the dorm was incredibly flat! The two extra pillows were so nice last night – my new mountain of pillows was just what I needed. They were worth every penny!

After all our exploring most of the afternoon, my friend, Vicky and I went to a Halloween party hosted by the Haifa Young English Speakers group I joined before leaving the US. It was a fun group and we enjoyed meeting so many new people. The guy who hosted the party is actually headed to Reno tomorrow for a friend’s wedding! It’s amazing how small the world is.

Tonight the dorm social directors are hosting a Shabbat dinner for all the international students. I’m looking forward to seeing what Shabbat is all about. They are going to teach us the prayers they do too. It should be a nice evening. Outside of this, the majority of my weekend will be spend reading and catching up on homework. Fun, fun. What are you up to for your weekend?

Big Decisions

25 Oct

Things are going along well here. Yesterday, I had my first Research Forum (basically a program touchstone where they bring in guest speakers, we can talk about our thesis, take field trips, etc) and my first German class in 15+ years. Our German teacher seems fantastic. She teaches language in an entirely different way then I’ve ever been taught a language. I really enjoyed her class and I think everyone else did too. There was lots of laughing and joking but don’t get me wrong – she rammed in a lot of German too. 

Part of what we talked about in the research forum was about the decision rather to do a thesis or a final exam. I’m currently on the thesis track which means less classes now but requires working on a thesis at the same time. We also have the option of picking a subject of focus and taking a massive intensive test on it. That means more classes now and more papers due in each class. Basically, the thought process is if you ever want to go on to get a Doctorate, it’s best to do a thesis. If you just want the MA, than a final exam is fine. Honestly, I am still debating what to do. At the moment, I’m leaning towards the thesis track because I will be able to research, in-depth, the topic of my choice. The big catch though is we have to find a professor here at the University of Haifa who is willing to supervise us. It’s OUR responsibility to find and approach the professor. If they are too busy or uninterested, it doesn’t matter if they are the only professor working in their subject field, if they turn you down – you can’t do a thesis on that subject. It’s a bit worrisome. We have until August to decide which track to do but obviously, I need to make my decision MUCH sooner.

I think I will take this month to research my area of interest, see what has been done in the area, find if there are any professors on campus who have researched in that area and go from there. If it looks doable – I will stick with the thesis. It’s only a 70 page thesis – not including bibliography. The thesis proposal alone is nearly 15 pages. Given that for the thesis track – we also have to do two seminar pages of 30 pages each on the course of our choice, which can be focused on the subject of our choosing – it would be possible to have most of the thesis finished before ever leaving campus. I would have until November 2014 to turn in my thesis, however, I’d hope to have it completed much sooner! Decisions, decisions!

One thing I’m really looking forward to in the Research Forum is learning about internship opportunities on Sunday. I am very interested in doing an internship. They are bringing in a ton of people to talk to us about what’s available. In two weeks time, we will find out more information about volunteering, which is required for one of my scholarships. I think I will definitely be busy but I am looking forward to the challenge and finding my groove.

Exploring My New Neighborhood

23 Oct

I didn’t have class yesterday so I took the opportunity to hop the bus and explore my new city. I was aiming for the area around the Horev Center (very close to campus) but I ended up two neighborhoods past that. I didn’t mind and enjoyed puttering around the stores and getting a good feel for the area. I had lunch at a great cafe and enjoyed a lemon mint drink and a huge fattoush salad. I am definitely really enjoying all the incredible salads! You can see pictures of yesterday’s lunch in my new Israel album on Facebook. As far as shopping went, I ended up buying some hangers for my closet (I still need more!), a pretty plant (as seen here) and some matches (to light a candle).

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My new plant friend. Anyone know what kind of plant this is?

I really enjoyed exploring the area and taking my time. I found a nice grocery store, I bought my plant from a very small shop owned by an incredibly patient lady who smiled a lot at my hand signals as we tried to understand each other with minimal Hebrew on my part and no English on hers. She was lovely and I may go back to buy another plant from her. The cafe I had lunch at was very relaxed with open windows to enjoy the breeze. I mostly people watched as I ate. 

One of the best parts of being out and about yesterday was on my way back to campus our bus stopped to pick up people at an apparently very popular bus stop. As we waited for people to board, I realized I recognized one of the ladies waiting for another bus. It was my classmate, Alison who lives here in Haifa with her family. We happily waved at each other. A few minutes after that, our bus was stopped at a red light and my window was even with a small black compact car. I glanced over and saw another classmate, an Israeli named Daphna. We both smiled at our luck and waved. Both were such simple events but they still warmed my heart and helped to make Haifa feel a bit more like home.

A taste of my first few days

22 Oct

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Classes Begin

21 Oct

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day. We started with an extended welcome to campus by the head of the International School and several other campus officials. All MA students were present. The university offers four International Master’s programs – Creative & Art Therapy, Peace & Conflict Studies, Maritime Civilizations and Holocaust Studies. These programs include both international and Israeli students. The welcome to campus was nice…but long! I was dying for coffee.

Afterwards, all the programs had the day off until it was time for tours. Our program chose to dive straight into classes so after inhaling a mega fast cup of coffee (random note – all coffee not bought at a coffee shop is instant. My time in New Zealand and England prepared me for this so I don’t really mind. Others on our program are not happy and thus spending heaps of money on nice coffee. I’ll stick with free and instant!) we were off for our first class – “Qualitative Research Methods.” After talking to many friends who’ve done grad school and hearing many horror stories about research classes – I was not looking forward to this class. It turns out – we have a fantastic professor and I think it’s going to be a great class! Yay! The thrust of the class this semester is about using people as research sources. We will be focusing on interviewing skills and investigative research. It should be fun!

As part of the introduction to the class, our professor had us go around and say our name, where we were from, our education and what our Holocaust “connection” was. After doing our symposium, I knew several people had family members involved but we really dove into it here. The stories were amazing to hear and I cried several times listening. One lady’s mother survived Auschwitz and never recovered from the experience. After her daughter started asking her questions about it, she slowly began to talk about her experiences. The memories haunted her so badly that she committed suicide. Another man’s grandfather survived three separate camps before being liberated by American troops. He weight 65 pounds when released. There was a child of a Babi Yar survivor. And the stories went from there.

This class was supposed to go until 11:45 and our next class was to start at 12:15. Unfortunately, we went way over and left our class late. On the way to the next class, our entire group got lost and we ended up half an hour late to the next class, by the time we finally found the building and room. The professor was completely unimpressed. This class is “The Second World War” and the class that I had to read a MASSIVE book for beforehand. We were given the syllabi for all courses a few weeks ago and I was pretty worried about this one kicking my butt. After going through the first class – I am not nearly as worried. The professor is very young but he is incredibly tense and strict. I think as long as I follow his set rules – I will do well in his class. It’s four hours once a week so I will make it work!

After all of our classes, we were to have a campus tour. Unfortunately, our WWII class went over and all of us missed the campus tour. This was okay since we were all starving at this point so we had a quick meal. I shared a lunch special from a coffee shop on campus with two students I’ve become close to. Victoria is from Columbia and in her mid-30s. After being diagnosed with MS a few years ago she completely re-evaluated her life and made many changes. Going back to school was one of them. Heather is an artist from Canada who could happily retire to enjoy her 3 adult children’s growing families but her love of learning brought her to this program. The three of us split a quiche and an ancient salad. At least the quiche was good!

We did catch up with the tour group to go on the city tour. They had hired a bus to take us down the hill and around town. We visited the Bahai Gardens, the Arab neighborhood (Wadi Nisnas) and the shuk (the open air market place). I really enjoyed finally seeing more of the city! I really liked the Arab neighborhood, which was mostly closed since Sundays are a day of rest from them. The market was great! Cheap food and incredibly tasty. I bought fresh bread, grapes, potatoes, eggs, cheese, salami (from a Russian market) and olives. This is where I will be doing most of my food shopping since it’s so much cheaper than anywhere else in town. It’s basically a year round farmers market but with more than just fruits & vegetables. I will try to post pictures once I have a strong internet connection. Unfortunately, the signal in the dorms is TERRIBLE! And totally unreliable. I have to say – it drives me nuts!!

After our tour we had time to eat dinner in the German Colony – an area of town that was originally settled by German Templar (not the Templar of Dan Brown fame!). It’s a super posh area with many restaurants. One of the girls who joined our group keeps kosher so we had to find a kosher restaurant for her. The place we ended up at, Cafe Cafe was good! I had a massive salad with fried cheese that come with the best homemade bread. I approve!

Once we finished dinner, we headed back to campus where I was thrilled to pieces to see my dorm room and go to bed! It was a long 12 hour day that was packed full!

On an unrelated note – several people have asked what kinds of foods have I been eating and what’s available. I have only eaten outside of my kitchen twice so far. I had dinner at a pub one night and had sweet potato ravioli with fresh tomato sauce (excellent!) and last night I had a fresh salad that was delicious. All restaurants on campus are kosher. This means no serving meat if you serve diary products (and vice verse, obs), no pork, no seafood unless it has fins and scales. So most restaurants tend to be vegetarian. It’s a vegetarian paradise! I have not had any meat yet but I hear there is a great place on campus that serves good and cheap hamburgers. I may try it tomorrow. Sadly though, no cheese on those burgers. 😦 I have to say the food is really good and always fresh. I have yet to try real hummus or felafel. Soon!

Gosh, typing about all this food makes me so hungry! I just woke up and now I’m starving for breakfast. I’d better wrap up this epically long entry. Let me know if you have any specific questions in the comments.

First Day

19 Oct

The view of the Mediterranean Sea from the classroom our symposium was held in. It was kinda distracting…

I had an early start this morning since we had a symposium at 8:30. It was basically an extended meet and greet ran by a lady who has a PhD in Genocide Studies. It was a very interesting day! The event was held in the tallest building on campus, Eshkol Tower…which also happens to be on the opposite side of campus from my dorm. At least I got to see most of campus on my walk over. Though I’m pretty sure I took the least direct route possible. It looks like a nice campus but I bet it looks differently during the week since most things were shut down for the weekend (weekends are Friday, Saturday here).

Today’s symposium was our first opportunity to meet the other students in our program. It is a very diverse mix of people. We have people from Israel, Poland, Belgium, Scotland, Canada, Columbia, Norway and the US. The ages range from 23 to the late 60s. We were told that there were nearly 300 applicants for this program but they only picked 30. Your guess is as good as mine on how in the world I made the cut! All but three of us are Jewish and I’d say a third of the students are international students like me. It appears only four of us are living in the dorms – the rest are either Israelis who commute or they have found their own housing through various websites.

We did several activities today – mostly centered on getting to know each other better and investigating why each of us are here. As you can imagine, many students have family members who survived the Holocaust. But there are just as many like me – who did not have family involved. The areas of interest are very broad and I’m sure will lead to great discussions in our classes.

The differences in our personal histories and the history taught to us was very clear early on. It was interesting to notice how people responded to these differences too. Unfortunately, it was a few Americans that handled these differences the poorest. Of the six Americans, four are fresh graduates from college (read: the youngest on the program). They were deeply offended when our professor talked about Winston Churchill leading the Allies in victory. They insisted that Roosevelt was the leader. They refused to hear anything different even when the professor pointed out the honest fact that England was in the war two whole years before the US joined. One very vocal girl threatened to walk out if this professor was going to continue “bashing Americans.” Outside of that it was a great day.

At the end of the symposium, we had to pack up very quickly to leave since Shabbat starts at sunset. Our professors and the building staff were anxious to leave in plenty of time to get home to their families. The Director of our program was very distraught to discover that most of the international students did not have anywhere to go for Shabbat dinner. She plans to arrange a place for each of us next Friday. That should be fun.

Back at the dorms – it appears that we only have four flatmates in our flat. I met another flatmate last night – Ariel, a Jewish girl originally from New York City but in the process of settling in Israel. All of us are Master’s students – Davy is studying Maritime Civilizations and the other two are doing Creative & Arts Therapy.

My bags are mostly unpacked though I definitely wouldn’t say I’m fully settled in. I’m planning a trip to the stores tomorrow night once they open after Shabbat. It just needs little touches like a bathmat, something for the walls, a small rug next to the bed. Simple stuff. And hangers are desperately needed for the closet! My room is kinda smelly (smells like feet!) and I brought a yummy smelling candle but I need matches. Though we were originally told we couldn’t hang anything on the walls – it’s clear that it’s a free for all for hanging whatever we want. I wish I would have realized that and packed more personal stuff. I do have several photos of friends and family which will be going up by my desk…as soon as I get some tape!

Tomorrow is mostly a free day – though the Social Activities Director is hosting breakfast and an Israeli movie in the dorm clubhouse. I’ve made plans with two of my flatmates to go shopping tomorrow…and to get my cell phone sorted out. Outside of that, I plan on reading the rest of my first week reading assignments and organizing my planner. Whew! I know – wild and crazy Mary! Don’t worry – I’m sure I will find some fun very soon.

Arrival

18 Oct

So I am typing this from my dorm room – I have officially arrived. I figured out how to get the wifi up and running. That was my third task after my arrival. The first order of business was a hot shower! The next was procuring coffee for tomorrow morning (we have a symposium that starts at 8:30 a.m.!). 

All my flights went really well, thank goodness! Once I arrived in Tel Aviv and got through customs, I was going to take a sherut (shared taxi) to Haifa but I had just missed one and the next wouldn’t be headed out for ages. I decided to tackle the train system instead. The trains were super easy and once I figured out where to buy my ticket – it was simple from there. Train stations aren’t that different from England to the US to Israel. I didn’t really even struggle with my two bags that much. I was pretty pleased with myself when I ended up at the right station in Haifa (out of three possibilities!). From there I took a cab straight to campus. I had a very chatty and friendly cabbie. He made me laugh the whole way to campus and continually pointed out the sights as we drove through town.

The dorm check in process was very straight forward and they even helped me drag my bags to my new flat. Though I see what everyone means about all the stairs! I will have some killer legs by the time I return to Reno. From the main clubhouse and campus market to my flat – there are six flights of stairs. No elevator.

I have met two of my flatmates so far. There is Davy (real name Catherine but goes by Davy) from Little Rock, Arkansas and a really nice lady (who’s name I missed) from Calcutta, India. We know there is another girl already here but she’s out for the evening. So that leaves two more flatmates to meet.

It’s 6 p.m. here so I think I’m going to start unpacking and get myself organized a bit so I am ready to go early tomorrow. I’m going to try to stay awake as long as I can but I doubt I’ll last too long — I’m exhausted! The social activities crew is hosting a night on the town tonight at 8 p.m. to help introduce students to good places to hang out. I would normally be all excited to join in but the combo of already being tired and having the symposium bright and early tomorrow means lame-o Mary. Boo!

As I settle in over the next few days and go through orientation – I will let you know how it’s going. So far, so good though!

And so it begins…

17 Oct

I tried to post the following this morning from the Reno airport but just discovered it didn’t post. Boo!

Well, I am sitting at the Reno airport – waiting at my gate to start this big journey. My two enormous bags weren’t as huge as I worried – my monster blue suitcase clocked in at 62 pounds and my rolling duffel bag was only 56 pounds. Dang! I could have packed more clothes! 🙂

I can’t believe how fast time flew from when I originally applied to now. Guess this is really happening. Ha ha! It seems like everything was a whirlwind once I packed up my apartment. For better or worse – the decision to apply and accept my position in this program has changed my life. It’s definitely the right decision – don’t think I am second guessing myself. It’s just been a while since I’ve had such a big, happy upheaval in my life. I know this program will be very hard but I believe in myself enough to know that I can handle it. Living in the Middle East will be a great challenge. And not to be too cheesy or pat myself on the back too much but truthfully, I’m pretty proud of myself for doggedly pursuing my goal of getting a Master’s degree. Remind me in a few months of how proud I am when I’m buried up to my eyeballs in readings and pressing deadlines looming over me. 

Saying goodbye to everyone was incredibly difficult this week. From my parents to friends – it was rough. I had a great dinner last night with some wonderful friends and it was the perfect low key evening. I will miss everyone greatly – I am so happy to have Facebook, Skype and iMessage to help stay in touch. The world has come a long ways from when I traveled abroad the first time and communicated with my parents via fax! 

And finally, thanks for indulging me with this blog and for reading along. I hope that you can live vicariously through me as I live these next eleven months abroad. Thanks for following me on this adventure.