I was planning on writing a totally different blog post than this, but I ended up deciding that this must be way more intriguing than what I had in mind... so here it is!
First off, I must point out that living in a country which has been in a state of emergency since its establishment is quite different than what you must imagine. Israel is a small country, surrounded by countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and divided by Israeli and Palestinian territories. People living here have a looming threat over their everyday life - the possibility of an incoming missile is not unimaginable, however, this does not stop them from living their everyday life to the fullest.
During my stay here I have discovered that life is just like back at home - we all go to school every day, explore the country during the weekends, and have tons of homework waiting for us when we get back :) The food is amazing, and people are incredibly hospitable. As the country is quite small in size, my new friends and I have travelled quite a lot around to make sure we see as much as possible. And as always, heed caution! The university will send you emails warning you of places not to travel, and as you are a guest in this country, heed their advise - and stay away from places they warn you of. Now, this is not meant to scare you - Israel is amazing, and I love it here. But I want you to know that things are a bit different here than at home, and listening to the locals is always the best thing to do.
Still, that does not mean that you should not travel! You are only here for a limited amount of time before you return to HPU. So go out and explore! Meet locals, eat street food, and let loose! The staff of the international school are great and have planned many trips around Israel for the international students. So far, we have visited Jerusalem, Rosh HaNikra, Atlit, Ceasara, and more, plus had countless events around in Haifa - from volunteering to pub crawls - there is tons to do and see!
Getting around is not difficult. There are buses and trains that can take you anywhere, and car rentals if you want the freedom to go wherever, whenever. Remember Shabbat though! From midday Friday to Saturday night almost all public transport stops, and shops are closed for the Judaism's day of rest. However, there will be a few buses operating on Saturday, as Israel has a very strong tradition of freedom of religion and of expression - thus, some Israelis keep to Shabbat very strictly (no work, no travel etc), and equally as many don't keep it at all. Therefore, Friday and Saturday has become the weekend, and Sunday is technically the first day of the week (therefore, school starts on Sunday as well).
The classes are a bit different as well. You will have about the same amount of classes and credit hours as you have at HPU, however, how they divide their class-hours is a bit different. A class will only be taught one day of the week, thus, in my case for example, I will only have my Arab-Israeli Relations class one day - on a Monday, for 3 full hours (we get a small break, of course). Now, as far as I'm concerned, this is not a problem. All the Israelis follow the same system. And honestly, you get used to it after some time. Plus, as all your classes follow the same system, you can technically end up with an incredibly long weekend! Which is perfect if you wish to have longer trips around the country - or more time for writing all your papers ;)
I hope this helped you guys if you were wondering about life here in the Middle East. It is a totally different way of living - while at the same time, not so different when you think about it. I can only hope more of you will consider studying abroad here. HPU has to represent, haha :) Have a great weekend everyone! Aloha