Shalom from Tel Aviv! I just finished my first week at Tel Aviv University. In some ways, it feels similar to my time at the University of Florida: living in the dorms, walking to classes, and hanging out with friends. However, certain aspects remind me that I am in Tel Aviv.
One thing that makes this campus different from UF is the security. Tel Aviv University is a closed campus. To enter the campus, you have to go through a gate and show a security guard your student ID. The dorms are guarded similarly as you need a key fob to enter through the guarded entrance. Heavy security is commonplace in Israel. It is not unusual for there to be a security guard or bag checks at the mall, movie theater, or even grocery store. Some people find the security intimidating, but I find it comforting. I feel safe knowing that there are security guards in the vicinity in case of an emergency.
Another difference is the language. Most Israelis speak Hebrew on a daily basis. While I cannot speak Hebrew, I can understand bits and pieces of conversations. Even so, I do not know enough Hebrew to fully communicate in the language. Luckily, most Israelis also speak English so there is not a huge language barrier.
One of my favorite parts of being here is striking up conversations with Israelis, whether it be at the university, mall or grocery store. Usually they say something in Hebrew to which I reply, “I don’t speak Hebrew” (only if my confused facial expression does not give it away first). Then they ask if I’m American to which I jokingly respond, “What gave it away?” Normally it’s the lack of Hebrew or my clothes, but the most interesting response I got was that I had a hamsa keychain on my wallet. Being from South Florida, many Israelis have mentioned that they have visited Miami or would like to someday. I find that interesting because Tel Aviv is a very similar city to Miami.
On another note, classes have started and so far, so good. I have class three hours a day which gives me plenty of free time to explore Tel Aviv. A couple days ago my friends and I took our first beach trip of the summer, and it did not disappoint. The ocean was cool and calm and the sand was smooth and soft (maybe a little too soft because it might have been partly fake sand). After the beach, we walked the boardwalk to find a restaurant for dinner. We saw the breathtaking sunset overlooking the ocean. It was an amazing end to our first week and I cannot wait for the rest of my time in Tel Aviv.