September 8, 2011

Let’s talk about school. I now have better understanding.

Hebrew University has four campuses. The Rothberg International School and the Student Village exist on the Mount Scopus campus, east of the Old City. The Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, which is more or less separate from Hebrew University, is located on Hebrew U’s Givat Ram campus, southwest of the Old City. (And for good measure, the other two campuses, Ein Karem and Rehovot, house the science schools, more or less.) My program, DanceJerusalem, is a special articulation between RIS and JAMD to make Dance study abroad in Israel possible for students like me.

As an international student at RIS, I must take a month-long Ulpan (Hebrew language) course, at least 6 academic credits at the RIS, and at least 9 credits at JAMD. I’m currently in the process of choosing my courses and juggling my schedule around between the two schools’ course schedules.

I am also currently in the middle of the first week of my Ulpan, and I’ve got to say that it’s TOUGH.


Study abroad in Israel?
“Sign me up!”

Leave Mason Gross School of the Arts behind for a full academic year?
“Okay, sure…”

Study Hebrew intensively for four weeks?
“Why not?”


I really didn’t consider what studying a whole new language was going to be like! I had studied other languages before. French in high school, but with barely any recollection today. A few semesters of Japanese a few years ago. The data decay is already on its way now that it’s not in practice. And now Hebrew. Here in Israel.

I was placed in Hebrew level Alef (א), in one of the base level classes. Now, having talked to many of the other international students here, I have learned that people think it’s rather peculiar for non-Jewish students to go to study in Israel. The brunt of it is I’m just one of a handful of students that has never seen or has rarely heard Hebrew in his life! I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the Hebrew class moves QUITE quickly for an absolute beginner like me. We breeze through TWO units per day!



In order to keep up with all the work, we all have to put in legitimate study time. Just tonight, a group of us sat in my living room in silence for a couple hours, working on our Hebrew. It was actually quite nice.

Be warned that a summer Ulpan here is the real deal! I’ll now admit that despite all the work I have to invest in it, I am falling in love with it. The characters are beautiful to look at. It’s really fun to find my own cursive handwriting. And what’s more is that my conversational skills do come in handy here, where the language is spoken in the streets! I can fearlessly introduce myself and tell someone it’s nice to meet them. For now, all the important stuff is still in the works and everyday conversation is still carried out with clear English on my part, with exaggerated gestures. But of course, it’s accompanied by as many Hebrew “בבכש’s” and “תודה’s” as possible.


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Paul Bloom, the director of the DanceJerusalem program, repeats a saying to us:  “You break your teeth on Hebrew.” It’s accompanied by a gesture in which you bite your knuckle and grimace. The saying’s just right… It’s tough, and I’m “breaking my teeth” for sure. But it’s all really so rewarding, and it’s really broadening my experience here. I even find it inspiring in ways… But I’ll talk more about that later on…


! ! ! שלמ שלמ, להתראות


  1. Great post! I learned Hebrew in…hebrew school. I can read it (like for prays and such) but a lot of the vocabulary is sadly lost. That being said, I did understand a small portion of what was said in your video. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Michael!

  2. carlo,

    yofi! (just remember: my aunt and uncle’s little white scottish terrier was named “yofi” because he was “wonderful”!)

    slicha! (just remember: we all make mistakes! so, as the guy said, “excuuuuuuuuuse me!”)

    ahnee rotzeh! (beatles song: “i want you, i love you, i neeeeeeeed (fill in the blank)______!”

    shalom chaver, you’re doing great, and while you’re at it, teach them some “jersey”!

    • Yofi is one of my favorite words now! And slicha also comes in handy a whole lot… 🙂

  3. I’m so jealous that you’re learning Hebrew! I’ve wanted to learn it for a while now! Good luck! …and TEACH me.

    • Let’s chat on Facebook or Skype sometime! If you’re ever up late EST, I’ll wake up extra early for a video date!

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