Graduate School

Ever since graduate school started my free time has shrunk considerably. Even when I do have free time, I’m either reading my coursework, doing errands, panicking about my courses or resting my brain.My brain is very, very tired. Especially after sitting through several lectures a day–in Hebrew.

Did you ever have nightmares about school? Like those nightmares about suddenly finding out that you were in a certain class and that the final just happened to be in another week and you hadn’t done any of the reading for it? That’s the feeling that I get when I’m in school sometimes. Especially when I’m sitting in a lecture where the professor’s Hebrew is especially hard to follow. The feeling of not knowing what is going on and of feeling left out is an anxiety inducing sensation. It stinks.

Okay, okay I know it’s supposed to be good for me. And I know that this is actually the way to learn Hebrew–complete immersion as opposed to regurgitating Hebrew grammar in ulpan class for the umpteenth time. But it can be reaaally hard to function in a language in which you are not totally comfortable all day.

It’s not only that I have limited vocabulary. It’s also the fact that my listening skills tend to be weaker than my reading and writing skills, so it’s harder for me to make out what people are saying–especially when they are talking quickly, incoherently or inaudibly. It actually made me realize how much listening is as much about hearing the words as it is about piecing the sounds together in your brain. Right now, my brain a limited ‘sound reservoir’ so there are many times where students’ mumbled questions are not interpreted by my brain.

Also, don’t you hate how hard it is to express yourself in a second language? I sound so much smarter in English! The depth and color of my conversations in Hebrew is limited by my vocabulary. I feel like I am much more boring because I can’t just talk about anything I want to talk about.

When I told my mom about the challenges of studying in Hebrew I compared it to being learning disabled. She could understand this because she is a learning disabled teacher. This isn’t meant to insult learning disabled students. I think that my experience of having a harder time comprehending teachers, of taking more time to read Hebrew texts and more energy to sift through all of the information is comparable to students with learning problems. I can relate to their sensations of frustration and the feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s like walking around with an extra weight or trying to listen to a lecture underwater.

This past week, I thought I was going to cry after my statistics class. The teacher speaks waaaay too fast—even for the Israelis. It’s also one of my later classes and is followed by an SPSS workshop that goes until 7:15 at night so keeping the energy level up can be challenging. Fortunately the class falls on my last day at Bar Ilan for the week. I love not having to take the bus for 3 days out of the week 🙂

My Israeli Society class is really interesting. The professor is very, very intellectual and sometimes I have trouble following his lectures because he can get so abstract. Also it is an anxiety inducing class in that the work load is pretty tough—especially because most of my reading is in Hebrew and I have a test in a couple of weeks that deals with a lot of material. That’s not to say I don’t like learning about this stuff because I actually want to learn about Israeli society. I don’t know enough about the dynamics of this place, and this is a good place to start.

My course load is heavy, and I’m at school 4 days a week. This year I’m just taking sociology prerequisites so I can move on to the organizational behavior classes. And believe me it is plenty! In addition to Stats and Israeli Society, I have T.A. workshops for both classes, an intro course on Social Psychology, a course on Sociology Theories, an intro Sociology course (with a workshop) and a course on quantitative research methods. I also can’t forget the required Judaics course and the ulpan class. Geez!

To ease the load, I have been able to secure some of my readings in English. I have also met some really nice students who let me look at their notes. I just have to find the time to actually look at them.

Right now I feel a lot less anxious about school than I used to. I think I’m getting used to things or at least getting used to the fact that I have to get used to things being challenging.

At some point I might share with you the joys of diving into university bureaucracy. For now I will just say that I still haven’t gotten my student ID card and that I am amazed by how much time I spend photocopying articles for my classes.

RZ

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2 responses to “Graduate School

  1. New York Reader

    Hey–

    I totally understand what you are going through. Even though in Paris my classmates were primarily native English speakers, many of them spoke French SO much better than I did and I got so annoyed that I couldn’t express myself clearly and couldn’t defend myself when teachers disagreed with that I was trying to express. It is totally frusturating, but I can say that it is also unequivocally worth it when you feel the ceiling on your language abilities finally start to crack and you find yourself being able to express things more elequently than you could before. My struggle, until the end of my year, was about speaking idiomatic French with my Parisian classmates, but it sounds like the Israelis in your class are a lot more patient than the Parisians were!

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