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A Semester Abroad in Haifa

Student Chanah Kempin reports on her arrival and the first month in Haifa.

Mar 31, 2021

Chanah Kempin in front of the wonderful view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea from the University of Haifa.

Chanah Kempin in front of the wonderful view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea from the University of Haifa.
Image Credit: private

Chanah Kempin has been in Haifa, Israel, since the end of February for her semester abroad. She is studying for a master’s degree in comparative literature at Freie Universität Berlin and is taking courses in Hebrew literature at the University of Haifa in addition to a language course in spoken Palestinian Arabic. Chanah had to postpone her stay by one semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, she knew that the end of her master’s degree was swiftly approaching. Fearing that she would never get to Haifa in time, she finally managed to get on a flight after all her previous bookings were cancelled. “In the end, it was more luck than smarts that got me here. And of course, compared to others, I had the advantage of Israeli citizenship,” Chanah says. It seems Haifa has been more than worth the wait! We hope that Chanah’s story will inspire others to remain true to their dream of studying or doing an internship abroad, even in the summer semester of 2021.

Chanah describes Haifa as a scenic city, where different groups enjoy a relaxed and neighborly co-existence compared with other parts of Israel. Hebrew is not Chanah’s first language. But this goes for most of her fellow students, too, as they are generally native speakers of Arabic. This makes it easier to master the challenge of reading literature in Hebrew together.

She lives in the Hadar district in a shared flat with an Israeli student and is thus surrounded by the Hebrew language all the time, much to her delight. Even though it takes a little longer to get to the university, Chanah is happy to live in a nice neighborhood with cafés, bars, a nearby shuk or market, and a good bus connection to the sea. Due to the rapid progress of the vaccination program in Israel, cafés and cultural institutions are able to reopen, and it is possible to be together with fewer restrictions, something Chanah enjoys very much.

Chanah tells us, for example, about a small festival in her neighborhood, where she received invitations to workshops or performances from a huge variety of people and groups. This gave her the chance to get to know people as soon as her quarantine ended. Despite such opportunities, her classes are currently still held via Zoom, but she doesn’t let that dampen her enthusiasm, saying, “I look forward to the discussions during the semester, to discovering literature together, and experiencing my language skills improving week by week.”

She is happy that she has been able to enjoy a semester abroad after all, after thinking it might never happen, and describes the first weeks in Haifa as “wonderful”: “I can’t quite believe that I’m really here yet.”