Walking into university to face a long day of studies in the early hours of the morning is a nightmare for most people, but for me, it is an experience I look forward to daily.
As I enter the campus and make my way through the beautiful Hebrew U gardens, I am able to look out on a view beyond description. The silhouette of the Jerusalem skyline, the Old City, as far out to the Shomron... this is what greets me on my morning walk to campus.
So far, my experience at Hebrew U has not only been fulfilling academically, but eye opening on every level. The first step in my Mechina programme, a programme to prepare students for university studies in Hebrew, was completing a six week Ulpan course in which my grasp of the Hebrew language improved dramatically. Since then, I have completed the first semester, and has just begun my second.
The Mechina programme offers two tracks, science and humanities. Since I hope to study Philosophy and Literature in the coming years, my obvious choice was humanities. The range of subject choices within each tracks are varied; from courses about film study and international relations, to characters in the Bible and statistics. Currently, I am taking mandatory ulpan, as well as Introduction to Psychology and International Relations. Every day I find myself marveling that in only six months I managing to sit in Hebrew lectures about the structure of neurons, and not only understand but be an active participant in discussion and debates.
While it is clear that the Mechina programme has already advanced my Hebrew skills dramatically and prepared me for further university studies in Hebrew, I have also gained many other invaluable experiences from my time at Hebrew U. I have had the chance to meet and get to know people from Belgium, China, Italy, Panama and more and through this I have been exposed to different cultures, opinions and beliefs. As a result of my large and varying group of friends, I have learnt tolerance, acceptance and have been forced to open my mind and stand strong in my beliefs, something I am incredibly grateful for.
The Mechina programme is centered around academic pursuits, but the staff and student advisors are also fully aware that a majority of students are new immigrants and have structured an environment that caters to helping students integrate and settle in through weekly activities, outings, and the feeling of genuine care from all teachers and staff members. I had only just completed my first Ulpan course when a week later I received an email from one of my teachers asking me to join her family in the Shomron for a Shabbat. Where else would you find such warmth and hospitality?
I am confident that through this year of academic preparation at Hebrew U, I will not only be prepared to further my academic studies in Hebrew, but I will also feel integrated and on my way to navigating a reality in the land of Israel.
Written by Yaffa Abadi
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Yaffa was involved with Bnei Akiva throughout school and matriculated from Yeshiva College in 2013. Upon completing school she went on the MTA Bnei Akiva year program to Midreshet Harova. She then returned to South Africa to start her degree at Wits and was in S.A for a month when she decided it was time to go back home and make Aliyah. Yaffa is currently just more than half way through the Mechina program at Hebrew U and hopes to continue her studies there next year, pursuing a double major in philosophy and literature (in Hebrew). Yaffa has a blog at the “Times of Israel” on-line newspaper.
The Mechina Ulpan Class - upon completing the first semester of summer Ulpan. Yaffa is kneeling in the front row in the white top and grey skirt.