Here I am on this lovely morning watching the sunrise on Yom Kippur – 25 hours of atonement. For me, this is a time of reflection and gratitude.
At this point in the year, I have completed the Summer Ulpan, an intensive Hebrew language program, at the Aleph or beginners level and will begin the fall semester after Sukkot.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to come to Israel a week early to explore Jerusalem, meet new people, eat great food, and have fun adventures. I learned about Shabbat and Jerusalem’s tradition of honoring Shabbat weekly. Now, having completed the Summer Ulpan, I have had many basic conversations in Hebrew with taxi and bus drivers as well as other Israelis, allowing me to walk through the city with more confidence and grounding.
When I arrived on campus, the difficulty and duration of the ulpan was a shock for me, and I did not think I would be able to continue. But I overcame that first day and ended the ulpan being able to understand and speak Hebrew out in the real world. As an English speaker with a little bit of French under my belt, I was able to push through and, in fact, tap into my French again, which I had not used since high school.
Through the ulpan, I made connections with people I can now call friends and had amazing teachers who were able to get us through more than half the textbook in just under a month. At the same time, I was able to absorb and practice the information learned in class while in the city. Even as this was difficult for me in the beginning, as I was retraining my brain, I came out with an expanded mind.
With this awakening of the language part of my brain, I have also found enjoyment in expanding my knowledge through some interesting books on campus in English, French, and Hebrew.
So far, my experience in Israel has been truly unique and special. I have appreciated all of the friendships and memories I’ve created.