University of Wisconsin–Madison

Eat, Beach, Ulpan

Even though I only arrived in Israel about 2 weeks ago, it feels like I have already been here for 2 months. When I think back to the beginning, I think about showing up at the airport with overweight luggage, boarding onto nearly the last seat of the plane, and finally landing 12 hours later, only to load onto busses that would take all of the students to the dorms. After finally getting to the Einstein dorms (pronounced Ein-shtein), my roommates and I didn’t waste any time trying to unpack and explore our surroundings. Conveniently located only a block away from the dorms is Ramat Aviv Mall, one of the nicest malls I have ever been to, where you can find everything from Louis Vuitton to McDonalds. We didn’t hesitate to start exploring the night scene either, so jetlagged or not, we went out our first night here to a bar called Penguin, which just so happened to be filled with all the abroad students. The next night we had much more of a true Israeli experience, going to a club called Solo (that has now been titled Solo Saturdays since we go every Saturday), which has been said to be the popular “winter” club. Funny thing about seasons here is that while all of the abroad students have ditched their jackets and boots for tank tops and sandals, the Israelis are walking around bundled up from head to toe, dressed “appropriately” for “winter”- what has been a high of 66 degrees. But for us, Americans, this so-called winter has been great for the beach! Gordon beach has been our go-to spot whenever we have free time, which hasn’t been often since ULPAN has started. Ulpan is the intensive Hebrew course that all abroad students are required to take that takes place from 8:30AM-1PM Sunday-Thursday for 4 weeks… I would say that intense is an understatement. Although I wanted to cry the first day because we were expected to know the entire alphabet, write each letter in script, and read words without seeing any vowels (I’ve just accepted that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read), it’s mind-blowing that on Thursday I was able to take an entire test in Hebrew after only learning for 4 days. Despite the fact that right now I slightly resent having to wake up early everyday and sit inside for hours at a time, Ulpan is a requirement for all exchange students to Tel Aviv University and so it’s a great time to meet new people and see everyone, not to mention I hear that if the teacher likes you, then she’ll invite you over for Shabbat dinner. Speaking of Shabbat, my roommates and I didn’t exactly know what we were in for when our first Friday afternoon hit. While Tel Aviv is definitely a modern city, everything still shuts down for the most part. This caused us some problems when we were left with no food or water our first Friday here, so now we make sure to stock up on the essentials Friday morning. We’re able to do most of our shopping and eating around campus, and for a greater selection, we take a 15-minute cab ride downtown (or if we’re feeling really ambitious, we walk). I haven’t quite figured out the negotiating with cab drivers thing yet being that shekels is still like monopoly money to be (it’s like 3.5 sheks to the dollar), but I’m working on it (well really my converter app is). I know it hasn’t even been 2 weeks yet but I can say with 100% confidence that this city is the absolute best place to go abroad. Between the fresh and delicious food, the friendly and welcoming people, and the perfect weather, Tel Aviv is an incredible city to explore and has a way of making people feel right at home.

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