Tag Archives: Opening symposium

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.