Tag Archives: Israel

Abroad Blog of the Week: Mary in Haifa

My mom called me this week and told me she had been reading a blog that she found through my site. “It’s really good,” she said. “You should highlight it one week.” When I found out she was talking about Mary in Haifa, I smiled because the interview was already in the works. It was good to know that my mom enjoyed Mary’s blog as much as I do. I’ll admit I’m a bit partial to Mary in Haifa for several reasons.  1. Mary and I met in 2005 at the University of South Carolina and since then have met up for dinner in all my subsequent cities when she comes through for work. 2. As Mary is a study abroad professional, I love that she is studying abroad herself in Haifa, Israel to pursue her master’s degree in Holocaust Studies. 3. Mary is always full of surprises, for instance, she was on the roller derby team in Reno, NV. 4. Her blog is wonderful, thought provoking, and really highlights the cultural experience of being a non-Jewish American grad student in Israel. Now that Mary has been in Haifa for 6 weeks, we’ve been able to exchange emails and thoughts on her new home. If you’ve thought about grad school abroad or living in Israel, Mary has some great advice.

What has surprised you so far about life in Haifa?

Truthfully, one of my biggest surprises has been the security situation. I’m an avid news reader so before I came the news was full of stories about Iran ramping up their nuclear program, missiles being launched from Gaza and growing tensions in next door neighbors Syria and Lebanon. Honestly, my first week here – I was pretty jumpy. Any loud noise and I was whipping around trying to figure out where it came from. I very quickly realized that despite being surrounded by chaos, an entire society of people was just simply living their lives. I know this sounds Captain Obvious but I guess in some small piece of my naive mind, I half expected people to be jumpy and scared all the time. That’s not the case in the slightest. The security issues are still there but they are more like the white noise in the background to a very full life. For the most part, I do feel safe here.

How is your experience living in Israel different from your previous times living abroad?

School is much more intense this time around. When I lived in Germany, I took German classes 4 days a week and an Intercultural Communications class once a week. I had a Eurail pass and we’d travel every single weekend. My time in New Zealand was after I graduated so I had no school responsibilities – my work schedule was the only thing I had to plan around. Grad school is time intensive so I have to make an effort to carve out time to explore but it’s important to me to do that. Yesterday, I read 3 chapters of a book, then went and explored the Druze bazaar just north of campus. One thing I love this time around is being around so many people from all over the world. The dorms are mostly full of international students so even a trip to the mini-market is multicultural. Two days ago, I was invited to join some Polish friends at their consulate to celebrate Polish Independence Day. Who ever would have thought that I’d be celebrating that in Israel?? We have some incredibly interesting students from all kinds of backgrounds here so even simple conversations have a depth to them that’s not typical at home. I even recently discovered that in our midst is a girl who’s father is the President of her country (sorry not naming countries for her privacy).

What did you do to minimize your culture shock?

I’m big on research. Before I came I read a boatload about Israel and Haifa. Everything from student blogs to watching YouTube videos. From TripAdvisor to Wikipedia. I even used Google Earth to check out the neighborhoods around the university. I found people who had been to Israel or Haifa before and picked their brain. In addition, I also researched groups that I might be interested in joining. One of my biggest worries when moving abroad is always how to find friends. By knowing in advance that there is an English community theater, a roller derby team and a Young English Speakers group in my new city – I felt more confident that I could create a place for myself in Haifa. I reached out to all three of these groups before I ever left home. I wanted to make sure that I had an outlet outside of school too.

What is on your “must do” list while living in Haifa?

Well, I have a whole Israel to do list on my blog but Haifa specifically – I’d like to walk through the Bahai Gardens (I’ve only seen it from the outside), visit Elijah’s cave and take the gondola from the beach and up Mt Carmel. Israel – floating in the Red Sea, visiting the Masada at sunrise and wandering the ancient streets in Old Jerusalem. Outside of the big touristy things though, I’d like to find “my cafe” in Haifa – you know a place where the waitress knows your order, you can get a cup of coffee and study for hours. I know that seems silly but to me that really illustrates that you’ve settled into a city. When you have a specific grocery store, a favorite cafe, a much loved bookstore. When you are finally able to build these relationships, you are no longer anonymous. You are a citizen and a member of a community.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in graduate school abroad?

Do your research! Many countries use different teaching methods so be sure to look into this too. Be aware that grad school abroad is just as intense as home so don’t come expecting a super easy, relaxing time. Be sure to plan time in your schedule to get to know the city and country you are living in. As grad students, it’s very easy to get buried in your work and not pull yourself out until your program finishes. You are abroad though! Soak up the culture! Make time to enjoy your new city.

Mary, thanks so much for interview and wishing you a very happy belated birthday!

The Beginning of A New Year

Raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, I was never exposed much to other cultures until I went to college. Although my alma mater is also in Atlanta, it draws students from around the U.S. and the world and prides itself on diversity. It wasn’t long before I realized that Emory’s Hillel was a whole lot bigger than the Baptist Student Union. With approximately 1/3 of the student population being Jewish, it was normal to see a guy walking on campus wearing his Yamaka or groups of students walking to Shabbat services on Friday night. There was even a student in my residence hall who had obtained Israeli citizenship and served in their army between high school and college. Judaism was part of the culture I was in.

By the time I graduated, more of my college friends were Jewish than not. And though I am a Christian, thanks to my friends, I had opportunities to celebrate Passover, attended several Jewish weddings, and even had the Hora at our wedding.

Yes, that is me screaming. The hora is scary!

My first Jewish holiday was actually celebrated while I was in Argentina. It was Hanukkah and my best friend was finishing up her culinary school exams when I first arrived in Buenos Aries. While there was a huge electric menorah outside of her apartment, she had nothing inside. So I researched all I could about the holiday while she was at school and made her a paper menorah. We hung it on the fridge and every night we added a lit yellow paper flame to celebrate the oil not running out. When she came home I bought her a real menorah and even keep Hanukkah paper in closet just for her.

Last night at sundown Jewish people around the world began their celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which starts the High Holy Days. While I won’t be joining any friends to celebrate this time around, I want to wish all my dear friends shana tovah umetukah, which is Hebrew for “a good and sweet new year.”

Start the sweetness of this new year with a Rosh Hashanah tradition of apples and honey. Find out about other green ways to celebrate at Greenopolis

Abroad Blog(s) of the Week: Ones to Watch

This week I thought I would do something a bit different and highlight a few blogs that I’ve been following. What each of these bloggers have in common is that they are preparing to study abroad. They come from various places and each is headed some place different, but all of them are taking a great deal of time and effort to prepare for their journey, which I hope leads to a great abroad blog. Here are some new ones to add to your reader:

Mary in Haifa

Like me, Mary is a study abroad professional. She travels the country helping students study abroad affordably in really interesting locations. Mary is taking a year leave from work to study abroad again (jealous), but this time, she’s doing her Master’s degree in Haifa, Israel in Holocaust Studies. Mary’s blog has so much depth already because she knows what she is getting herself into. She is prepared and has even reached out to the local roller derby team in Haifa to meet friends. This is definitely one to add to your blog roll for this fall.

FREEdom Abroad

I happen to have the privilege of being the advisor to the lovely blogger of FREEdom Abroad. Katie is first headed to London at the end of July for a semester abroad with our university, then will be traveling through Asia independently, and she’ll finish out the year with a semester in Budapest, Hungary. As a journalism major, Katie’s writing is interesting and inquisitive. She is constantly wanting to try something new and she is highly adventurous (sometimes to the dismay of her study abroad advisor!).

Turkish Musings

This blog is written by Hayley, a senior at Grand Valley State University headed to Turkey for the semester. Hayley’s prep has been extensive. She posts regularly and goes into detail into everything from learning the Turkish alphabet, saying goodbye to friends, and the visa and financial aid process. I’ve allow noticed that Hayley is pretty active in the blogosphere and is reading a lot of abroad blogs to prepare. I’m pretty eager for Hayley to go abroad to read her personal Turkish musings. One more fun fact about Hayley – she’s a regional official for the US Figure Skating Association.

Adelaide for a Year

I’ve only been following Anthony of Adelaide for a Year for a about a week but I’ve enjoyed going back through this prep posts. From Essex, UK, Anthony just arrived in Australia to spend a year studying at Flinders University in Adelaide. There are so few men that study abroad and blog about it that I was excited to find Anthony’s site. His new camera seems to be serving him well and I really appreciated his first post about leaving home. Now that he’s just arrive in Adelaide, I’m sure he’ll have some great pictures up soon.