The time has finally come for my Spring Semester Study Abroad program to begin, and when I say finally, I mean two months after the Fall Semester ended at BU.
Israeli universities kick off their Fall semesters immediately after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which is usually around mid-October, and begin their Spring semesters at the beginning of March. It had been a long two months back at home as I counted down the days until I would be on my way to the Middle East. I was unsure what to expect in a country that seems so far away and so different from America. Within just a few hours of being in Israel, I realized how different the culture and lifestyle are here when compared to the States.
For starters, when I arrived to the university campus, there was one main entrance with a security guard checking all the student and faculty IDs of those who wanted to enter the university. Once you were in, you were in. As I made my way to the dormitories, I noticed that they were more similar to apartments than stereotypical dormitories. There was no security or key to get inside of the building, so it was pretty much accessible to any student on campus. In Boston, we’re accustomed to security and safety measures when we want to enter on-campus housing at BU. Here, there is no swiping your student ID card to get inside or signing in your off-campus guests after 2 A.M.
Sundays in Israel are not like your typical Sundays where you get to sleep in late and catch up on all the work you waited until the last minute to do. Sundays here are the equivalent of Mondays in America, as a typical week of classes begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday. At first, I found it extremely difficult to adjust to this new weekly schedule. My days were all mixed up and I had to keep checking my calendar to see which day of the week it was.
Another major culture shock for me came when I discovered that students at Israeli universities aren’t between the ages of 18 and 22. They vary between the ages of 18 to 24 or 25. This is largely due to Israeli policy that almost all 18-year-olds are drafted to the Israeli Defense Forces and serve for about two to three years. On top of that, there is an immense amount of international students who come to study in Israel after they’ve taken time off to work or travel.
However, despite all of these differences, I have come to the realization that Israel is not that different from America. Almost everyone I’ve come in contact with the past week speaks English almost perfectly. Whether it be on campus, at restaurants, or even on the streets, Israelis can speak English well and keep a conversation going. Though I want to improve my ability to speak Hebrew, I most definitely am not complaining about the ease of communication with the locals here.
Another misconception about Israel is that it’s not a multicultural country. I have come to notice that this is not the case and it is actually the complete opposite. Every day, I meet people from new countries– South Africa, Europe, America and even Uganda, just to name a few. This closely resembles BU’s diverse student population which has thousands of international students.
Even though it’s only been a week since I have been in Israel, I already feel at home. I’m beyond excited to discover the hidden gems Israel has in store for me.
Kayla Youssian, Study Abroad Correspondent
Kayla Youssian is a junior at Boston University studying advertising with a focus in religion. This semester she is studying abroad in Herzliya, Israel. There, she hopes to explore Israel and learn more about the culture and its history. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, making jewelry, and taking lots of photos and videos.