I am halfway through my first week of school, and I have only been to two classes. The first day, I missed my classes because the Israeli students were all on strike, chained together in front of the gates, pleading with international students not to enter and hurt their cause. And I'm no scab, I'll tell you that much. So I skipped out. The next day I went to my first Hebrew class and found that I was to learn seven whole new letters. Considering I already know all the letters, I left. I went to my advisor, who suggested that I weasel my way into the next level Hebrew so I can graduate on time, even if I have no idea what's going on. I meet with the Hebrew Big Shot tomorrow to argue my (admittedly pitiful) case. Wish me luck. Then he tacked on two more courses to my schedule, and advised me to take the Literary Arabic course I had previously thought I couldn't take because it meets at the same time as another class of mine. So we worked something out, whereby I just go late to the other class (of course!).
So now that I've got most things ironed out as far as classes, I have an actual schedule--something I have not had in three years. Strange. My classes are as follows: Hebrew--8 hours a week; Arabic--4 1/2 hours a week; and 3 hours a week each of the following: Approaching Classical Jewish Texts, Eros and Kabbalah, God Man and History in the Ancient Near East, and Victory and Surrender: A History of Islam. Whew. I am a student again. I carry overly expensive textbooks, write in college-ruled spiral notebooks, sit through lectures taking extensive notes, eat in a cafeteria, and have homework, actual homework.
So I guess it's just your average graduate school, with a few exceptions: The textbooks are in Hebrew, or, if they're in English, I have to know Hebrew to find them in the bookstore at all; the spiral-notebooks all open backwards; the lectures are all three hours long, with about nine students each (no chance of dozing and/or doodling), and I have to have my bags and person searched to enter the cafeteria.
I just finished lunch in the Frank Sinatra cafeteria actually--the same cafeteria that was destroyed in the bombing of July 31, 2002. That was strange. Something new, I guess. But I've already gotten used to handing over my purse to enter anywhere: a grocery store, a movie theater. And it's not so bad that getting onto my campus is like getting on an airplane: show id, bags on the table for inspection, walk through metal detector, have a nice day. At least I feel safe here.