Today was the first day of electives in ulpan. Electives will meet for one hour, three times a week. They are with other students in our level, but not necessarily from our class (I think I'm one of only two people from my class in my elective). The elective I chose is about Hebrew literature, and we will be reading excerpts from novels, poetry, and plays. I am very excited about this - excited to be reading "real" writing, and to be learning from it, excited to be learning about creative expression in Hebrew, an aspect of language that is in some ways entirely different from day to day speech and from factual articles, and excited to have some variety added to the ulpan schedule, to work with a new teacher, and to meet new students. The German girl I made friends with on the first day is in my literature class - her name is Eva and she seems really nice, so I hope I'll get to know her better. She and her friend Tobias (also German, also studying theology) are here all year, and they both live near me, so I hope I'll take the initiative to ask them to do something outside of class.
I'm finding that I am very shy at ulpan. I've spoken to a few people, but it is hard for me to do. Most people live in Kfar HaStudentim (the student village) and have roommates and friends they spend time with outsideof class. I don;t hav this and because of that I feel a little left out. But I have been seeing the same people on the bus every day, so I suppose after a time I might get to know them. Also, once I am in graduate seminars it may get easier.
Yesterday I attended a graduate student orientation. I received the course offering directory and learned a bit about the graduate school - there are something like 270 graduate students at Rothberg International School, half of whom are MA students and half of whom are visiting students (like me!) Visiting students don't have any requirements and can basically take whatever they want. We can take classes from the course offerings, or we can take classes offered through Hebrew University itself - each department publishes a list of classes in that department that are taught in English, and I can take those if I wish, or any class in Hebrew if I am so brave. I plan on taking Hebrew, Intermediate Yiddish, a course about Israeli history or society (I have quite a few to choose from!) and, depending on whether or not it is taught this semester, probably I will also take Yiddish literature in English translation. In the spring there is a translation studies class that I think would be pretty awesome - but I have a long time to decide about the spring! (In fact, I have a whole month still to decide about the fall...)
At the orientation I met a girl in the MA program who is from China. She was a religious studies major in China and she is here to get an MA in communal leadership studies. Afterwards she wants to move to Toronto, where her boyfriend is working. She seems really nice, but her Hebrew is at the beginnners level and her English isn't that great, so it was hard to communicate with her. Maybe I'll see her again as well, during graduate student events. I hope so!
Soon enough I'll also be starting my out of school activities. I've been in contact with the heads of Yung YiDDiSH and the Interfaith Encounter Association, respectively, and have arranged to meet each of them in the relatively near future (YY next week and IEA in early September). I hope to volunteer for YY about twice a week and to go to many of their programs, and I hope to volunteer for IEA once a week, and to join the Hebrew University encounter group. I am very excited about all of these opportunities!
I am settling into a routine here and basic things like taking the bus to class, stopping at the store on the way home to pick up a few things, etc. don't seem as scary anymore. The less intimidating all of this is, the more I think I'm going to like it here.