Tag Archives: thesis


4 Dec

It’s a rainy day in Haifa today but still lots going on. All this rain is killing my motivation so I figured it’s a good excuse to update my blog. This will be a random update of sorts so bear with me as I jump all over with topics.

  • I had an interview today with a potential internship organization. Apparently, I did okay since they hired me on the spot. I will be working with the Oral History Department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I will be working on a brand new archive of testimonies they just received. I will be writing abstracts on testimonies of people who were children during the Holocaust. Instead of being regular interviews – they are actually psychological interviews. I will be working on the testimonies from Haifa and then once a month, I will go to Jerusalem to work in the archives on campus. The lady that interviewed me also offered to be my thesis advisor if I wanted. I am thrilled to pieces at this placement, as only a Holocaust scholar could be. She is emailing me my first testimony later this week.
  • I have been floating many ideas for my thesis and several big papers I have coming up. I have been all over the map with ideas lately. Being immersed in a topic like this is so fascinating and at the same time I’m constantly distracted by another potential topic. The focus on children during & after the Holocaust has been a new interest since arriving here. To give you an idea of the various things I have been thinking about – here is a simple list of topics I’ve thought about in just the last few days: the railway system as a tool for the Nazis, persecution of freemasons, non-Jewish Poles killed by the Nazis and psychology of the resistance. So. Many. Possibilities. The hard part is finding an angle where I can use my English. My German is still shaking enough yet that I couldn’t rely on it for reading original documents. Thus, I need documents that have already been translated or another way to focus my interest.
  • I’ve been talking to many very homesick friends here this last week. So far, I am still hanging in there. I miss people more than I miss home. That means pack your bags and come visit me, people! Ha ha! The harder thing to deal with for me is new levels of communication. It sounds obvious but when I’m home I can talk or see people whenever I want. Being here – with the time difference & busy schedules – it makes it harder to connect with some people. I’ve been learning the tough lesson that not everyone is willing to make a effort to keep in touch. I try not to take it personally but it is a hard pill to swallow.
  • Our program is giving all the students a Christmas/Hanukkah present next week. They are taking us to see Cabaret in Tel Aviv on the 15th. I’m really looking forward to it. And I’ll apologize to everyone now for all the singing I will be doing once all those songs get stuck in my head…!
  • Hanukkah starts on Sunday so we have that day off from classes. A classmate is planning a big party for all of the international students. Hanukkah is not that big here, as it is in the US. It’s a minor holiday here. The Arab neighborhood begins their Holiday of Holidays this weekend which will help me find my Christmas spirit. As of now – it doesn’t feel like Christmastime whatsoever. Except for the Christmas tunes I’ve been rocking out to as I study.
  • I’ve reached the halfway point of my first semester and it feels like time is flying by. It also feels like I’m quickly running out of time. Now that I have an internship to add into the mix and we start volunteering tomorrow – busy, busy! I have to write three very big papers for various courses this term so even though I’m leaving campus for several weeks between semesters – I will still be working on school. No rest for the wicked.
  • Yesterday, I was interviewed for a new promotional video the University is doing for our Holocaust program. It was fun to do but watching the playback was painful. I felt like a fool seeing myself. We will see how it’s all edited and then I’ll decide if I’ll post it here later.
  • I am hoping to escape Haifa this weekend since I wasn’t able to leave last week. The weather might be a hindrance though given it’s supposed to keep raining from now until next Tuesday. Since a few friends (& family!) mentioned worrying about me and where I head – I’m not going to say where I’m going until after I return. Don’t worry Mom & Aunt Helen – Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria are definitely NOT on my list! And honestly, I’m not ever going to travel somewhere that I feel is unsafe.
  • And finally, I had a very funny moment at the grocery store recently. As I previously mentioned, sometimes the deli and meat counter at the grocery store can be a bit intimidating given my limited Hebrew. I have slowly worked out who speaks English and who doesn’t. One day, I decided I wanted to make spaghetti with a bolognese sauce so I needed ground beef (mince to you Kiwis & English reading along). I knew from past experience the butcher was a very cranky man who spoke no English and who didn’t appreciate my lack of Hebrew. I had yet to recover from our last encounter when trying to buy chicken. There may have been charades involved. Which although amusing to the lady giggling next to me…had zero affect on Mr. Grumpy. He rudely shooed me off until I could find someone to help me translate what I wanted. I was filled with anxiety knowing I’d have to face him again but my love of good spaghetti outweighed my fear. I carefully researched the word in Hebrew for ground beef and 500 grams then painstakingly wrote it down. I had two classmates approve it first before heading to the store. As I approached the counter, I see it’s a new butcher who I’ve never met before. I hand him the paper and stand, biting my lip, waiting for him to shoo me off too. He squints at the writing – brings it closer to his nose, holds it at arms length, then brings it in again. I’m starting to panic and begin fishing my iPhone out so I can google translate the word again. Finally, he looks up and says, “So you want some ground beef?” in a perfect Brooklyn accent. *sigh* Oh Israelity…


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.


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.

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.

Hitting the Books

23 Jul

So this week a new reality has sunk in for me. I’m going back to school. 

Yes, I know totally Captain Obvious. But I hadn’t really thought about the actual STUDYING part too much until just recently. I was still too busy getting my head around leaving for a year and the prep that goes into that. This week our group on Facebook has already starting talking about setting up study groups given the insane amount of reading we are going to pack into a year’s time. It is a two year degree crammed into one year after all. Again, something I realized but didn’t really think about.

I’m not trying to sound freaked out. I’m not freaked out. Okay, maybe a smidge. I was doing okay on the not freaked out front until someone in our group pointed out that we only have classes two days a week. And that the expectation is that the rest of the time we’d be doing research or studying. Yikes! It’s been a VERY long time since I was a student. My study skills are probably pretty rusty at this point. I hope I can find my groove again pretty quickly. History requires a lot of reading and this program will require readings not only in English but German too. I’ll just have to dug deep and do my best. I know I can be successful – I just need to tame the worry monster. My biggest advantage is – my whole reason for being in Israel is to study on this program. No outside influences. No day-to-day Reno home life to distract me. Though anyone who knows me, knows I’m always up for distraction. It’s going to be interesting!

My next hurdle to tackle is to decide if I want to take the thesis track (less classes but massive research paper at the end) or the comprehensive exam track (more classes but a final test where you can be tested on anything you learned in any class you took in the last year). Not sure when that decision needs to be made. I’ve already have a few thesis ideas floating around but there are also several classes that I’d really like to take that I can only do if I choose the exam track. I’ve still have time yet (less than 3 months now).

On an unrelated note, another popular topic of discussion in our Facebook group is where everyone is going to live. Our original paperwork stated that we were required to live on campus. Since most of the students on my program are “non-traditional” students (read: old!) the university has granted us an exception if we’d like to live off campus. After much debate, I’ve decided to live on campus my first semester then decide rather to stay there for the other two semesters. I’m hoping that by living on campus, studying will be easier and I will meet more people. Plus, I’d rather get to know the city so I can best decide which neighborhood I’d like to live in. Not to mention, get to know the other students so I can figure out who I would be willing to be roommates with!