Pre-departure is not my friend.
As terrifically as I’d like to say otherwise, this entire pre-departure process has been a living nightmare, and I am eagerly, emotionally, and almost literally, counting down the days until I finally board the plane and leave.
Sadly, my experience with the American branch of the Rothberg Institute has been headache-inducing, which is partially my own family’s fault but partially the Institute’s fault. Earlier this month, they held a required meeting/Q&A session for students in their New York City office. There was an option to phone in. I’m from Central Pennsylvania, which is not too far from NYC, so while I told my parents I’d like to just phone in and avoid the hassle, my parents thought a trip to New York would be nice. Except we managed to cram about 6 crucially bad mistakes in a 4 hour time slot and wound up late and soaking wet to the meeting. By the time we arrived, we had missed a good chunk of the meeting. But it was nice to put names to faces, and we got to ask a few questions that we’d been chewing on (My Question: will there be much interaction between Israeli students and international students? Answer: not really. My mom then needed clarification on what was meant when it was stated that the school would shut down for holidays—she thought that included dorms, too). All in all, the informational section of the meeting took about an hour, even though they’d told us it would last around two. We then were given some light Israeli food and time to chit chat with the other people there.
The food was delicious, hummus and falafel and pita with plenty of dips, but there were, outside of myself, five other students at the meeting. I’d been so excited to meet some of the people I’d be with—but only met so few! They were all so nice, but it felt as though they were on an entirely different level than myself: much more sure, much more dedicated. We’d nearly gotten lost in New York to listen to information that was later emailed to us, and to chat with a few people I didn’t connect with! It was a nightmare.
Now, a few days later, I’m looking over the email they sent us as well as the documents, and I can see that part of the meeting we missed discussed how to obtain a visa. This intrigued me, as I’d emailed a few people in early June asking when I should start my application; the response was, “We’ll go over that later.” And now, I find out that the instructions they’ve given me are really just, “go and get your visa”! Incredible—I’ve got 12 days until my flight out, and I have to somehow figure out a way to get to the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia, the closest one to my hometown. I’m not sure how long it takes to get a visa, but I imagine it has to be longer than 12 days. And I could have finished this two months ago!
I’m also feeling very overwhelmed, as not only do I have to cram in more official paperwork in the next week and a half, but it’s also starting to hit me how much money I’ll be spending when I’m abroad. As there is no food plan included in tuition costs, I know that much of my savings will go to that—the kicker is that, while I’ll probably be living in a suite-style apartment, it won’t come stocked with cooking utensils! There’s more money I have to fret over! Plus, the costs of a phone plan, bedding, travelling within the country and shopping for toiletries as well as other necessities—I have such a headache and I’m not even close to being done with everything!
Overall, I’m extremely disappointed with this process and the way most of it has turned out—that much of the actual planning and doing is only coming down to crunch time, when much of this could have been announced throughout the summer. Part of me feels that if I’d known it would be this intense, this complicated, I would’ve chosen another program—but I never would have known about this stress if I hadn’t chosen this program, anyway. On a brighter side, my desire to study in Israel is much stronger and deeper than this superficial stress and paperwork—my desire to see a new country, to experience a completely different way of life, will definitely shine through the second I take my seat on the plane. I have my three classes picked out (Continuity and Change in Modern Jewish History: The Last 200 Years; Hasidism: From Mystic Fraternity to Reactionary Movement; and Issues in Israeli Society) although I won’t officially know what I’m taking until I get there. I’ve got a general idea of the clothes I’m going to pack and the clothes I still need to buy. And I’ve just about seen all the people from I wanted to see before I leave.
So, I’m still excited. But, overwhelmingly, I’m disappointed and aggravated at what this process has been like. Pre-departure has not been my friend.