Do I hear a strike?

The chagim are over, which means back to a routine and back to work. I can see how this month is just absolutely unproductive. How can you be when you feel that as soon as you get back into a routine, you have to get ready for chag or for Shabbat? I like the chagim, though, especially Sukkot when the weather here starts to cool down and people dine al fresco.

The chagim being over means that I’m only a week away from starting graduate school. Or maybe not. Supposedly the students are going on strike. Yes there was a university strike last year that lasted several months.  Is this the price of low university fees? Apparently, it is mainly a result of government funding cuts to universities. Yeah that’s a smart move. Way to invest in your people Israel.

According to this Forward article “The presidents are furious because the government has acknowledged that universities are deteriorating and promised that it would add $100 million to its annual funding every year for five years. However, the government made this boost conditional on an increase in tuition fees, which in Israel are not set by universities but by the government. The government has failed to implement this increase.” Funding cuts, politics and incompetence. Business as usual in Israel.

Well that’s one reason why I moved here. I’m hoping to be a part of changing this disastrous system. I don’t know how I’m going to accomplish that–especially because trying to change anything here is like moving mountains–but I’d like to try. Take that Israeli bureaucracy!

I would like to go to school this year. Especially because it was such a pain to register! It took me a half a day to go from one administrative building to the next. University bureaucracy is confusing in your own language. Try to imagine it when you haven’t mastered a foreign language :).

First I went to the bank and paid my first tuition fee (for which I will get reimbursement for by the Student Authority). I made sure to get there at 8:30 am. Other students had the same idea as me, but I managed to be first in line. Then I went to get a form to register for my classes from the department of Study Programs תכניות לימודים (Abbreviated as Tlam תל”מ. That’s another thing. They really like using abbreviations in Israel. It’s really aggrevating if you’re trying to learn the language!)

Then I took this form to the sociology department to register for my classes. Fortunately I met the head of the organizational sociology program who was able to straighten out which classes I need to take. It turns out I need to beef up on some intro sociology classes and some intro statistics too. I might have to stretch my studies out to 3 years if I find it too much to finish everything within 2 years. The intro classes don’t sound very exciting because they are mostly focused on methodology and theory, but I know that once I get these classes under my belt and get to to take the MA classes, I will be okay.

After signing up for classes with help of the soc department, I signed up for my obligatory Judaics course. At B-I you have to take 2 Judaics courses as it is a religious institution. Unfortunately you have to physically sign up at the department like everyone else, put your name on the waiting list and try to scan the list of courses to find something you like. I decided to go for a class on the Prophets since I never got to study them in depth. Besides, as much as I wanted to study Talmud, I don’t think they had anything at my level. and learning the subject in Hebrew is not so easy.

After that, I don’t remember what I did next. I know that I did go to the Dean of Overseas Students to introduce myself and find out about what else I need to know. I do know that I have to take a Hebrew test and take ulpan 2x a week, depending on what level I place in. So that’s another course on my list for this year and next. But at least I get to study Hebrew at the level I want.

I also had to visit the English department to confirm that I was exempt from taking an English as a foreign language. Unfortunately I missed the placement exams which took place before I made aliyah. But I found out that I could receive exemption by emailing a scan of my Columbia University diploma to the office. Phew!

Finally, I went back to the department of Study Programs to get a student card. I still haven’t received it in the mail, so I’m going to have to check on that. Maybe the chagim slowed them up. Or maybe it was the upcoming strike.

Studying in Hebrew makes me nervous. I know I will be totally lost and speak like a complete idiot. I know I’m not an idiot, but I sound like one when I speak a tongue in which I’m not fluent. Of course studying in Hebrew is a good way to become fluent. Better than easing into it because you are forced to adapt rapidly. I just have to suck it up, acknowledge I’ll be clueless for a while, find people who can help me figure out what’s going on, get tutoring and try to arouse sympathy with my professors so that I can write papers in English and get more time to complete tests.

Well hopefully I’ll have to dive in pretty soon. But I don’t have much confidence the Israeli government will get its act together in time for the school year to start.

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