On August 30, 2011, I landed in JFK airport in New York City at 5 AM (2 PM Israel) and walked outside to begin weeks upon weeks of fulfilling fantasies. I saw landscapes I only dreamed of before, was fascinated by museums and met amazing people. At the end of the trip, as the water of the Pacific Ocean embraced me, I realized that, once again, I touched the impossible.
On August 30, 2012, I returned home at 2 PM (5 AM New York time) and jumped up and down. I had just submitted the last assignment of my degree, and as I walked through campus, loving every inch of grass, of pavement, of old buildings long-ago painted, of libraries, of the people that enriched my experience…. as I walked there, I knew I touched the impossible once again.
For a degree was not a given. For the connections formed throughout it were not a given. For the continuing life changes, the fascination, the curiosity, the overjoy, the not-wanting-it-to-end were not a given.
As a new student, I walked through the hallways of Gilman, the humanities faculty’s building, and could only guess how marvelous was the presence behind class doors. I could only guess the greatness of the moment. Years later, as I knew it from inside, I smile thinking of those first steps. At times I regretted no longer being in that at-awe place. Only as time passed, I realized that I still was, that, though being in that campus became a given, became part of who I was, it still amazed me.
There was not one day that I left campus without looking back – to anchor, to honor, to be grateful, to acknowledge myself, to celebrate this opportunity.
Throughout the last year, there was not one day I was there and didn’t feel nostalgic. The walls and trees and chairs and staircases of my Tel-Aviv University campus tell not only the enchanting stories of gender studies and creative writing for me, but they tell my story. They hold the secrets of transformation, of a path paved, colored and changed.
They have given me knowledge. Critical thinking. Courage. A renewed sense of fascinating discovery. Excitement. Friendships. Fun. Self growth.
All the ingredients of a fabulous journey, that is anything but over, for I shall return.
IF YOU COME VISIT….
1. The most beautiful building in campus – Gilman.
OK, OK, some will even claim it’s the ugliest. But the humanities faculty’s building will always be the most beautiful one for me.
2. The grass in front of Gilman
This place is a must. You’re not a real humanities students if you don’t know the “Gilman Grass”. It is a stretch of green – small in US terms – between Gilman and Sourasky, the central library.
On Wednesdays, you’ll find musical performances and – well – a market there throughout the school day. And when I say school day, do note they close shop at 6 PM. If you come to campus at 6 after work for a class, don’t count on this entertainment.
3. Sourasky’s second floor and other library tips
Red chairs in the hallway, captivating photography on the hallway wall and the cleanest bathrooms because most people don’t bother going all the way up to the second floor. Don’t come to this library on summers for long periods of time if you don’t have to, though, because librarians are not highly pro-air conditioner, to say the least.
When you do go, make sure to ask for directions to the “limudit” library, which is where the extra special books are kept. It took me a whole year to discover there’s actually another library in the building. When you see the guard at the entrance to Sourasky, just turn right, go up the stairs, then go straight. You can’t miss it – it’s at the end of a one-way hallway.
However, if you desire a more unique (all be it louder) learning experience – and without taking away from Sourasky and the Limudit – the social studies library was recently renovated to look extra cool, and even has private cabinets. Yet the most popular room there is the room of the pouf. Just don’t expect to do any studying there – if people don’t fall asleep there, they tend to talk. A major plus for this library – it has the nicest guards there! You have to go say hi. Oh yeah, and rumor has it that massages were given there this summer to students prepping for exams and writing papers. I was busy writing a paper on the Arctic, so I didn’t verify whether this rumor was true or not.
4. Travel the campus for food
Web is the building for languages learning. Alongside its old neighbor, Rozenberg (building for Judaism studies), it is also the building for any class in the humanities that didn’t have space in Gilman. The best part about Web is that if you come early enough (by noon, preferably earlier), you’ll find the cheapest sandwiches in campus here. I’m talking $2 or so for a sandwich! It’s not the biggest or richest sandwich, but you can buy two. If you go to Gilman – where students are said to be the future poor population, since they’re not majoring in high-tech (comforting, isn’t it?) – you’ll likely find the most expensive sandwich – $4.5 or so for a simple sandwich.
Gilman is also an expensive place to buy bakery goods. Cross the grass to go to Mexico, the building of the art faculty (we also have a Britain building – for life sciences – in campus). It might not have as big a selection, yet bakery goods are usually half the price as they are in Gilman and it’s really not a long walk. Mexico is also known for sandwiches at around $1. Hardly the tastiest sandwich the world has seen, yet if you’re hungry and on a serious budget, go there early before everyone else does.
Gilman, however, might be the best place to find the world’s tastiest chocolate – strawberry chocolate. Check the stand near the nice cashier to find it. Yum 🙂
If you want real food, I would recommend it – except my favorite restaurants seem to disappear from campus one after the other. There’s a lot of renovation going on right now in two major food areas – at the front entrance to campus and by the education building – so it’s worth to check what’s new. Eco, right by the exact sciences building, is your restaurant for the cheapest salad I found yet. If Greens restaurant remains opposite McDonald’s in the popular food area by the education building – just know it’s not the only option, as it’s expensive.
Another place to try is Humus Humus, located in the law faculty building, right across the “street” from the education building. I only ate real food there once because my favorite restaurants were still open until this past year, yet I have a friend who seems to be a regular there and it is always packed. If you’re in Gilman and in a hurry, sandwiches here are cheaper by a dollar or less than they are at Gilman, and the walk is the closest if you:
A) Leave Gilman through the cafeteria
B) Leave Gilman through the second floor. No need to jump out the window, there’s a door right outside class 223.
Lastly, there’s Shesek, the social studies cafeteria. This used to be my regular place – tasty food, nice people, I had classes in the building. Then they raised their prices and I needed a change in food. I have shamelessly not eaten there in two or three years, but it was “my” first cafeteria and I will always cherish it.
5. Wildlife encounters
We have two kinds of wildlife in campus – cats and crows. They wander freely, yet they have very different status. While the crow find food by literally taking the trash out of trash cans, the cats are fed by staff, faculty and students alike. Cats have another privilege by being residents of the campus: They get to sit in on lectures. I even saw one cat getting on the podium with one of the top professors of the faculty, to help him teach the class.
While it’s heaven for cat lovers, it is not the place for people who are allergic to cats. The story of a student who had to quit her studies because of it and demanded a refund for her annual tuition made it to the news once and I’m sure she’s not the only one. Unfortunately, I don’t know how this ended.
Whether you are in certain classes in Gilman or in certain areas of the social studies building, expect a distant view of beautiful sunsets. For most of my years in campus, I saw it either in light or in darkness, yet if you manage to catch a sunset on your way from campus to your home or job, make sure your camera is ready.
7. The colors of summer
You might be used to hearing praise of fall colors. Whether in Patagonia, Europe or New England, there are a good reasons to rejoice in autumn, as the tree leaves change colors before they fade and fall. At the Tel-Aviv University, however, trees turn red on summers. It happens in June, and my guess is it happens for the sake of graduation ceremonies taking right in front of Sourasky, right beside the Gilman grass.
8. My little corner of heaven
The Gilman grass might be the place to be, yet if you prefer going off the student beaten path, take the first turn right as you walk through the main entrance to campus. You’ll find a (very relatively) vast area of green that’s usually not occupied by anyone or occupied by very few. The building on your left is the building of the music program, so expect to hear relaxing music as you sit down to eat, study, fall asleep or watch (or feed) the wildlife.
Where do you journey through the everyday?