Well, I sit here and type this now with the ability to understand the language of Hebrew (spoken by Israelis i.e. not slow or very clear) very well, and beginning to speak it even better– and why is that? WELL... BECAUSE OF SUMMER ULPAN AT HEBREW U.
With an intensive period of six weeks behind me – of full days of speaking, reading and writing in 'Ivrit' my life, here as a Hebrew U student is slowly, excitingly and very positively turning into that of a local Israeli.
One might want to know what it is like to be in the world renowned Ulpan at Hebrew University, and so I would like to give you a run through of one's average day here on Mount Scopus. If you are like me, and live in the K'far Ha'Studentim you wake up around 730am, take that famous, rather breathtaking walk to the Hebrew U campus – gaining that days inspiration on your way by looking at those priceless views of the old city and surrounding Jerusalem. Walking into school (breathless after that view) you are met by your friends – Jews, Arabs, Christians, Armenians and every religion alike. You take your sweet, sweet walk through the botanical gardens on campus and then enter through the doors of the Rothberg International School at HU. Surrounded by friends from France, Peru, USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Korea, you name it – everyone sits in the cafeteria and gets their coffee, tea or iced coffee in order to start the day. Whilst sitting in class – P.S. one is only allowed to speak in Hebrew – everyday has something new to offer, something new to gain and learn. For example, learning a grammatical rule – and for me as a Jew having revelations, such as seeing these rules appear with words in the Siddur that I have read (but never really understood – until now) my entire life. Learning songs that we hear at the Yom Yerushalayim concerts and singing them in class, learning about the History of Bezalel in Hebrew, having your everyday conversations but this day, its in a new and now no longer foreign language.
At break time (usually after two hours of class) the cafeteria is covered with students – the best thing that I notice everyday when I am there? Is the presence. Everyone and anyone who is standing within that cafeteria wants to be there – whether they are studying in Mechina before applying to the main university, taking their semester abroad at Hebrew U or just experiencing their gap year with all the programs that are offered here – they have all worked so hard to be there, thus no matter where you turn someone is smiling with confidence. Another one of my favourite things, is sitting at the tables and on the benches with the other Mechina students, and even though we are no longer in the classroom, we are all continuing to speak in Hebrew – because at the end of the day THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE! These people that I meet and see in the courtyard everyday have become my motivation, making me appreciate this life of a student at Hebrew U every single minute.
After break #1 you have another two hours of Hebrew class - sometimes a lecture on the History of Jerusalem, given to you by a brilliant professor and yes, you guessed it, IN HEBREW- you might even be surprised by watching Israeli adverts on Youtube, scanning the latest songs, a tour throughout the famous streets of Jerusalem and or even learning new dances – basically within a day of Ulpan at HU ANYTHING can happen. Break #2 comes and goes – with a candy or two in your hand you head back for the last hour and a half of class. On a side note – from a girl who never really used to be a fan of school, the homework given during Ulpan absolutely rocks! I have pondered as to why that is, and well I arrived at the conclusion that when you are sitting in Ulpan you would like to do everything in your power to succeed and therefore see homework as just another tool to help you get to your goal of eventually speaking and understanding Hebrew just like an Israeli.
Here is my little 'shoutout' to my Ulpan class, people who very quickly became my family Bet 2.
Side note number 2 – my goal this semester is to write at least one blogpost in Hebrew – without the help of our dear friend Google Translate – and now after finishing the Summer Ulpan, the odds are looking good! I am officially in level Gimmel (the third out of five levels needed for entrance to Hebrew U)
And so – that, my dear readers, was the daily success of the Summer Ulpan (I kinda wish that I had another one coming up – oh, but wait, Mechina is a whole year of it! YAY)
Now, onto Mechina – having just finalised my schedule I am extremely happy to announce that I will be taking the Humanities track of the Mechina program, which thus means that due to the level Gimmel of Hebrew – my math, history, creative writing courses are all taught in Hebrew. So with four more days to go until the Mechina year begins, I am actually for one of the first times in my life ABSOLUTELY, COMPLETELY, WHOLE HEARTEDLY, MAMASH excited for my first day of school.
As I am concluding this post, whilst sitting at one of the delightful, and rather hipster, coffee shops next to the K'far Ha'Studentim, the winds are about the blow in, my iced coffee is at its last drop and my computer's battery is rather low – I must get back to my apartment.
Fun fact: Tonights schedule for RIS students – there is a Challah Bake at the Jeff Seidel Student Centre tonight in order to start the Shabbat Ruach (spirit) as this weekend's global 'Shabbos Project' is rolling in. This weekend meals are offered, Shabbat is being brought in with dancing, drinks and prayers and is going out with a concert and we, the students here at Hebrew U, are all about to KEEP THIS TOGETHER. (P.S. I am feeling very proudly South African this week, as the idea originated in South Africa with Chief Dr Rabbi Warren Goldstein last year, so naturally I, originally South African, am allowed to brag. Although, I must say that the best thing about the Shabbos Project this year, is that my dream came true and I am keeping it in Yerushalayim.)
Kita (class) Bet 2 - HA MISHPACHA (The Family)
Here are just a few 'selfies' and photographs to show off our Ulpan happiness.
My best friend who runs the Cafeteria
One of the texts that we read!
My morning as a student of Hebrew U.
My new reading books - IN HEBREW!
Another one of our texts given for homework
And just one of those mesmerising views from campus!
SHABBAT SHALOM LE KULAM from the best University in the world. May more people join us this time, next year, and even come sit and type with me here at the coffee shop.
Lehitraot, Cassi x