October 26, 2011

Back to school.

Monday finally marked the beginning of orientation week at Tel Aviv University, praise adonai. The last several weeks have been a vacation of sorts, and while this time has taught me a lot about myself and given me a chance to become acquainted with a new city, I am absolutely ready for this next chapter of my life to commence. 

I feel like a freshman in college again- in the last few days I've introduced myself to a hundred new people, had so much information (ID cards, health insurance, course schedules) thrown at me, engaged in more small talk than I usually care to stomach, and been scared pretty much the whole time. That may be a bit hyperbolic, but do you remember what it felt like during your freshman orientation? Every feeling is amplified (fear, excitement, exhaustion). There are new faces at every turn, and you have (almost) no clue who will become a permanent character in your world when everything whittles down. It's terrifying- in an exhilarating way. And if we're being honest (we are, right?) it's really comforting to know that we're all in the same boat.

The overseas program (OSP) here has drawn about 300 students from all over the world (TAU has about 30,000 students total) participating in over a dozen different specified programs. My particular program (Political Science in Action: Leadership, Communications, and Elections- its a mouthful) has all of eleven students. Nobody enjoys some solid me-time more than yours truly, but I have been so grateful for the chance to make friends this week, and I'm encouraged by how easy it has been. It takes a special type I think to move abroad for graduate school- particularly to Israel. That's not to say that there isn't a variety of perspective or opinion to be found regarding geo-politics and current events, but I'm meeting people who share a passionate interest in these topics. This is why I came here.

Classes won't officially begin until next week, so this week has been one endless social mixer. Like I said, I haven't been in this position since freshman year of college and I think I have to be careful about how strongly I hold on to first impressions especially in situations like this. But isn't it funny how you can sometimes just tell about someone? It goes both ways- positive and negative impressions. For instance, there are two other girls living in my suite. They both seem like very nice people, and I think as roommates we'll be able to get along just fine. But one of them I can just tell, I don't have a whole lot to say to her. I'll make an effort to get to know her when our paths cross, but I just don't get that kidred feeling from her. 

On the other hand, I met a girl named Noa in my department meeting on Monday, and her roommate Nicole happened to be in a random tour group I was placed in later that afternoon. With both of these girls there was an almost instant sense of "yeah, I'm definitely going to be friends with this one." We have similar senses of humor, we have no trouble holding conversation, we make each other laugh, and (so far) I feel like we view the world around us through a shared lens. Obviously we can't know each other that well in only three days, but with each of them I find myself excited to learn more about who they are, where they are coming from, and the things that make us different and the same all at once. 

So, let me introduce to you- Noa and Nicole. Making friends, yessssssss.

(the quality of this photo does not meet my standards, but I didn't take it, a drunk girl did)

Last night the OSP held a party for us all at a bar downtown. I will say that while people were trying to figure out directions and transportation options, I felt totally great about myself for being able to give advice rather than seek it. All the time I've spent wandering around by myself has paid off! It was the first time I felt like a resident here rather than an outsider, does that make sense? Who am I? I'm that girl who can tell you which bus to take. Cause I've already taken it. Shazam! Anyway- the evening was fun, it was nice to dress up a little, have a few drinks with all of these new friends, and just unwind a bit. After a few hours, when some of us were fed up with fighting the growing crowd (the bar opened to the general public after awhile), I ended up  getting beer at a convenience store and walking down to the beach to sit and drink with a couple of guys from my department. Have I mentioned there are no open-container laws here? I love Tel Aviv.

This afternoon I spent with Noa and Nicole- we had lunch together and went for a walk down to the river park I mentioned in a previous post. We didn't have any official orientation activities, and it was nice to just spend a little bit of time talking and getting to know one another. We also introduced Nicole to Krembo


Noa has family here, so when she left for the evening to visit with them Nicole and I went to the grocery store and did some laundry. I want to give Nicole kudos here for tackling an obstacle I haven't yet been ballzy enough to take on- ordering from the deli in the grocery store. So far I've just stuck with pre-packaged cheese and cold cuts.

This might sound silly to you, but put yourself in my head as I approach the deli in a foreign supermarket: the guy behind the deli counter probably doesn't speak that much English. Even if he does speak English, what measurement system do they use here? Can I order a half-pound of sliced cheddar or do they use kilos or something I've never even heard of? Or should I just say "ten slices"? What if they don't have cheddar? Shit! Why didn't I ever take the time to learn metrics! What if he doesn't speak English?! 

Well, Nicole and I decided that this was the time to bite the bullet and just go for it. Nicole- I feel like your accomplishment this afternoon is partly mine, and I was happy to be your moral support as you faced this hurdle. I can't wait to go grocery shopping with you again- next time, deli meat!

So, the theme of this week has been doing things that scare you because you're in a foreign country- meeting people, ordering at the deli, etc. The lesson? Sometimes the unknown is delicious (and cheaper than the pre-packaged kind). 



Very well done! I can learn so much from this blog. I'm still too intimidated to buy cold cuts from the delis here. Please go to a coffee shop next. I've never ordered anything other than hot chocolate from Starbucks because I'm scared of misusing the snooty lingo. I'll do it if you do it (in another language)

the Ginger said...

Done. I'll let you know how it goes. Some info I'm armed with as I head to a coffee shop: Here, iced coffee is called "cold coffee" cause "iced coffee" is a coffee milkshake.