Sunday, June 26, 2011

Study Abroad: What to Pack

I didn't get this post up in time to help the first Summer session students but hopefully this will help the next group of incoming students. Rothberg International School does list items it recommends you bring on its website here. Much of this post is just going to be my commentary on their list with a few additional items I think should be added. First thing to mention dress is very casual here. Even for the graduate students you can wear jeans and t-shirt to class. That was a suprise to me when I was getting ready to come to Israel. I know if I was attending grad school in the states I would likely have to dress up.

  • Shoes- I brought a pair of hiking shoes, a pair of winter boots,two pairs of sandals, and a pair of slippers.
  • Coats- I brought my winter coat,a rain jacket and several cardigans. Even if you are just coming for the summer bring a cardigan or two. It can get rather chilly at night. Sometimes you need a cardigan to study in the library if the air conditioning is on.
  • Umbrella- If you are just studying for the summer you likely won't need this. Winter is the rainy season here.
  • You need sunglasses and a hat. These are must haves for Israel during the summer.
Books: Note that this is for students in the MA program The Bible and the Ancient Near East
  • Brown Driver Briggs(BDB) Dictionary-Even if you have it on your computer you still need a physical copy. Some professors will let you use the dictionary on a test but they won't let you use the computer version.
  • Gesenius Hebrew Grammar- Several of the professors use this in their course. It's also just a good reference to have. This one can be on your computer. I've never had a professor let me use this on a test.
  • Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia(BHS)- This is the main Hebrew text the professors use here. You need a physical copy of this book as you will be allow to use an unmarked copy on some tests. 
  • Modern Hebrew/English Dictionary- This helps with the Modern Hebrew requirement. There are some decent dictionaries available on your ipod as well.
  • English pocket Bible-You need a clean unmarked English Bible. You are allowed to use an English Bible on the archaeology exams. You can substitute a pocket Jewish Publication Society copy but you will still need to bring the BHS. In one of my archaeology classes I actually needed to quote from the New Testament so you might want to consider having a copy of that as well.
  • An Israel travel guide is also helpful. I have one titled Let's Go Israel which has been helpful so far. 
School Supplies: You can buy most of your school supplies here.
  • If you want a day planner in English bring one. The only ones they sell here are in Hebrew.
  • They do not sell regular folders here. If you want regular folders bring them with you.
  • Binders here only have two rings instead of three. Just in case that would bother you. :)
Bedding and Towels: You can buy this stuff here
  • Wash cloths can be hard to find so you might want to bring one
  • I brought a sleeping bag to use as my comforter. It packs small and doesn't weigh much.
Electric converters/adapters: The current here is 220 volts, 50 cycles. I bought my converter and adapters at home. You can buy two prong adapters fairly easily here. However the three prong adapters that you need for most computers are hard to find here.

Computers: If you need a new computer buy it before you get to Israel. If you buy it here you will have to pay tax on it. If you have a new computer shipped here you will have to pay tax on it. I definately recommend bringing a computer with you. There is free wireless internet in the Boyar building. You might want to look into how you could get your computer repaired if something goes wrong with it in Israel. Bring your warranty information with you. I had a problem with my computer last summer and it took quite a while to figure out who I needed to call and what could be done for my computer. My computer model isn't sold here in Israel so the part had to be ordered from Europe which took a long time. If you have a Mac there is only one Apple store in Israel and it is in the mall in Tel Aviv. If you need repairs on your Mac I think they have to send it to Europe. You might want to give your computer a checkup to make sure its okay before you come to Israel.

Medicine:If you take prescription pills bring enough with you for your entire stay. Or you will need to work out a way to get your medicine while you are here. I don't think the pharmacies will honor an American prescription but I don't know for sure. You need to bring a basic supply of over the counter medicine. Over the counter medicine is not sold in the grocery store here. Over the counter meds are sold in the pharmacy.

Random Tips:
  • Toiletries are expensive here. However bringing large bottles of shampoo and other products can take up a lot of weigh in your suitcase. I brought sample sizes to use until I could get to the grocery store.
  • If you wear make up bring your own. Make up is very expensive here. The brands that you buy in Wal-mart at home are sold in the pharmacy here. The make up sections have representatives from the company that stand in front of the display, they are paid on commission and won't leave you alone to just look. And most of them speak English so saying you don't know Hebrew doesn't work. 
  • Sunscreen here smells funny and is more oily feeling you might want to bring some from home. 
  • When packing take everything out of the packaging in order to save as much weigh as possible.
  • Bring a flashlight. There have been a few times where the power in the apartment went out and I needed one. Also if you plan on visiting Hezekiah's tunnel you will need one.
  • Laundry bag- The laundry facities are only in building 2 which for me is across the student village from my building. I've seen some people using their suitcases for the same purpose. Don't leave your suitcase in the laundry room though, it won't be there when you come back.
  • Stain stick-In the states I've never really needed one of these, here in Israel I must be a dirt magnet or something. I'm always finding stains on my clothes that I have no idea what they came from or when they happened.
  • If you drink coffee you might want to bring a french press and a bag of coffee. You might also be interested to know that they don't really have coffee creamers here. Coffee is usually had after a meal and because of kosher laws if you had meat for your meal you can't have cream in the coffee afterwards.
  • Bring a good backpack. I just grabbed a random backpack from my closet and threw it in my suitcase. I didn't realize the backpack I grabbed was from middle school and the inside lining had deteriorated. I had to get it replaced. I now have a sturdy backpack from L.L. Bean. It has a padded back and shoulder straps. This comes in handy on days when my backpack weighs close to thirty pounds. 
That's all I can think of for now. I hope it was helpful. If you are a new student and have questions feel free to ask them in the comments section. I may come back and edit this post if I think of anything else.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer is here again

It's hard to believe that I have now been living in Israel for a year now. Officially I flew to Israel on June 13th last year. In some ways the time feels like it has flown by and in other ways it feels like I haven't been here very long at all. So much has happened in this last year. I feel like I have learned a lot. Living in Israel has changed me somewhat, I feel like I've grown as a person more living here than in the States. Living in another culture has its own unique challenges.

Spring semester exams finished up last week on Thursday. Akkadian, the exam I was dreading the most was naturally the last one I had to take. It had to be the last one so I could worry about it. The picture to the left comes from my study sessions of Akkadian. After studying the various signs for hours I started playing around with them. The signs in the picture are from Lady Gaga's song Bad Romance there is no ro sound in Akkadian so I had to substitute ru. But other than that is the line from the song ra ra ah ah ah ro ma ro ma ma ga ga u la la! And then I realized that that line would insure that I never forgot those signs so I tried to come up with similar lines from songs to remember other signs. For the most part my strategy worked.
I still have one take home exam for the Assyrian sources class but I have until next week for that one. I'll probably work on that test this weekend.

The last several weeks there has been construction on the way up to campus. The city has been putting in bike paths all over Mount Scopus. From my observations the bike paths start and stop in very odd places. Entering and exiting the bike paths in some locations would be very dangerous to the biker and drivers. On the way to school the bike path construction caused them to tear up the sidewalks and eliminate a few parking spaces that were always full. Those who park their cars there now have to cross the bike path to put coins in the parking meter. Last week when I was walking to my Akkadian exam they were putting asphalt on the places where they broke up the sidewalk. Construction in Israel is mind boggling. They do not close the sidewalk you can walk by not even a foot from where a giant machine is picking up chunks of concrete. The construction workers do not wear hard hats but they do wear yellow vests. The supervisor will be the one sitting in the shade smoking a cigarette. They had put out the new asphalt with no signs indicating this. People were walking through the new asphalt and leaving shoe prints and none of the workers were bothered by this. I don't know how these people missed that the asphalt was still wet. It has a shiny quality to it, it smells awful and there is a guy in a steamroller driving towards you! I went around it which required walking out into the street and hoping a bus didn't hit me. Obviously I made it. Walking back the same way later I noticed they redid the asphalt because I can't find the shoe prints in it. They could have saved themselves some time by just putting up some signs.

The new students for the Summer checked in on Sunday and Monday this week. It was nice to already be in an apartment and not be dragging luggage everywhere. Every time one semester or session ends they try to kick me out of my dorm room even though I've paid for it. I tried to head it off buy going to the dorm office in person but it doesn't matter. My name is always on the list of people who need to move out. On the day they say I have to move out they sent by several maintenance men who tell me I have to be out of the apartment by a certain time. This requires multiple trips down to the office to get things sorted out. This time the lady in the office insisted I had to move because they had already scheduled my room for someone else for the Summer session. I had to throw a fit and it worked because I got to stay in the same apartment.

Monday evening I attended the mandatory orientation. It was exactly the same as last year but they assured me I had to attend because they had changed their policies. It was interesting hearing the same information but from the perspective of someone who has been here for a year. I would have been at the school anyway for the shopping trip to the mall. The Burger King is no longer in the mall but there is now a McDonald's! So I got my hamburger and french fries fix. I also went to the bookstore down on the first floor. They only have a small section with English books but I spent quite a bit of time looking them over. They were having a book sale so I ended up getting three young adult Hebrew. These books are above my reading comprehension level in Hebrew. I thought it would be fun to try and read these with the help of a dictionary maybe one chapter a night depending on how long it takes me to read. I had the sales clerk help me pick out three that were in easier Hebrew. I'm looking forward to reading these.

Yesterday was a emergency preparedness day. I don't actually know what they called it. Yesterday at 11am all of the emergency sirens sounded throughout the country for two minutes. During this time everyone is supposed to go to the bomb shelter in the building. Rothberg International School had special permission not to disrupt the summer classes so we didn't have to go in the basement. The professor told us that the police,fire department and other safety related departments would be running drills throughout the day. The sirens also went off a 7pm last night for two minutes. This was to make sure you are prepared at home and know where the nearest shelter is located. My room is the bomb shelter in our apartment so I didn't have to go anywhere.

For the first Summer session I'm taking Intermediate Biblical Hebrew. There are 10 people in the class. I have the class five days a week. On Sunday we meet from 10am-3:30pm. Monday-Thursday 8:30-2pm. It's very intensive but I'll be able to get Intermediate Biblical Hebrew completed. So far the class has been very interesting. Today we worked on translating Psalm 23 which is one of my favorites.

From the last post:
Uncle Joe- Yes Hebrew is one of those languages where you have to conjugate the verbs differently depending on the person's gender that you are talking to.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Study Abroad: Choosing Luggage

This post continues my series to help students get ready to study abroad. Here I focus on luggage in a future post I'll detail more about what to actually pack in your luggage.
Chances are you have several pieces of luggage you can use but they may not fit current airline regulations. Check your airlines website well in advance for measurement restrictions and weight guidelines. Most airlines you can have two bags that each weigh 50lbs. Check how much your current suitcases weigh when empty then you know how much weigh you actually have to work with. The suitcases my family has were bought before the new airline regulations on average weigh 15lbs when empty! That would only give you 35lbs for the stuff you want to pack.

If you have the money you want to invest in a good set of luggage that weighs as little as possible. In my research I found Eagle Creek's hovercraft line to weigh the least. I’m also a neat freak when it comes to organization on a trip so Eagle Creek’s pack it system of zippered cubes, and folding squares worked well for me. I also found out Eagle creek makes compression sacs like space saver bags only you don’t need the vacuum to use them. These saved me some space. They are great for items that are full of air. For example I compressed a twin size pillow as flat as a pancake, once you open the bag it puffs right up with no damage. 

Use unique luggage tags to help you quickly identify your bags on the luggage carousel my luggage has Texas A&M tags because it’s not likely anyone in Israel will have that kind of tag. I also recommend purchasing luggage locks make sure it says travel sentry somewhere on them. Mine are also Eagle Creek they are three number combination locks you set the combination and can change the combination whenever you want to. They have a key hole that airport security has the key to so they can search your bag relock it and no one else can get into it. It can also be good for locking up valuables in your dorm after you arrive if you need to. 

The wardrobe in the room is very small that’s where your compression sacs can come in handy. You can store off season clothes in the compression bags where they will be protected from dusts and moisture and slide them under the bed. Note that the beds may not have enough room under them to store your luggage. My suitcases are different sizes from the hovercraft line so I can store them one inside the other to take up less floor space.  I started to pack my luggage a week before I had to leave. This is so I could pack and weigh each suitcase multiple times to make sure I didn’t go over the weight requirements.
  Even if you are not going to study abroad this can be a fun philosophical exercise and you can learn more about yourself. Pretend you are going to live in another country for at least a year. You can only take 100lbs of stuff. At least 50lbs will be devoted to clothing and shoes. What would you use the other 50lbs for? For me personally most of my other 50lbs went to books.  I did get a kindle so I could have more books with me but some of my scholarly books are not yet available for the kindle. Some of the books just wouldn’t be the same on kindle, my Life Applications Study Bible for example I have made notes in the margins of it and I would miss It too much if I had to leave it behind. You can tell I’m a bible scholar though because there were two other translations of the bible I have that I wanted to bring with me but couldn’t.