Moriyah Shacham: Contemplations on a colorful palette of studies (blog 1)

Moriyah ShachamOctober 18, 2012: It is 6 am on a Thursday morning in Jerusalem, the last one before the start of the new academic year. Later today, multitudes of new and old students will be welcoming the semester with celebrations downtown and frantic last-minute searches for a reasonably priced Casio calculator.

Perhaps a few have woken up early from sheer excitement, in anticipation of the new year with all its possibilities for learning, self-enrichment and activism. Maybe others, like me, are so thankful for the opportunity to once again grace the ivy-and-Jerusalem-stone-covered walls of the Hebrew University that they too are glancing at their calendars at this early-morning hour, counting down the hours to their first class of the year.

On the other hand, I suppose it is also possible that my blissful insomnia is the result of a persistent bout of jetlag.

Earlier this week I returned from a two-month stay in Miami, where I had the pleasure to describe my studies to a board meeting of the Southeast Region of the American Friends of Hebrew University (more about that here). I am glad to have now been given the opportunity to continue sharing my experiences in this blog.

I am a student in the Hebrew University's liberal arts flagship honors program, Amirim. Besides constituting an excellent initiation into the vast world of academia, Amirim teaches us to think critically, synthesize ideas from different disciplines and articulate our own theories in our studies and beyond. I am also a student of comparative literature. This year, the considerable workload of my final year in literature and Amirim will be compounded by my first year as a medical student at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Medicine.

This combination means that I have the slightly onerous opportunity to study at all three of the University’s campuses in Jerusalem: humanities, social sciences, law and social work are studied at the Mount Scopus campus in northeast Jerusalem, science and mathematics are taught closer to the city center at the Edmond J. Safra Campus in Givat Ram, and the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical is located on the medical campus — shared with Hadassah University Medical Center — in Ein Kerem, which is on the southwest outskirts of the city. This time-honored division is accompanied by a time-honored discussion of the consequences of such a separation. In any case, this year I will attempt to bring the three campuses together mentally, if not physically, through contemplations on my colorful palette of studies as I brave the geographical divide.

Before I am to venture forth frantically through the city, I decided to warm up my grey cells by enrolling in a fascinating academic seminar the week before classes officially begin. The Lafer Center for Women and Gender Studies has offered an intense three-day course titled "Feminism in the 1990s: Making Sense of a Contested Moment in History", which deals with the aftermath of radical feminism and a new generation of young women. It is being taught by none other than academic rock-star Prof. Janice Radway from Northwestern University. This course allows me to contextualize some of the issues that I was exposed to in a discussion group on feminism that I participated in last year, and which was organized by the Unit for Social Involvement in the University’s Dean of Students Office.

Good luck to me and to all others embarking on the new academic year!

Moriyah Shacham, 23, is a final-year undergraduate in comparative literature and the Amirim (humanities) liberal arts program and a first-year medical student. She is from Beit Shemesh; for her national service, she tutored sick children in Beer Sheva and the surrounding area.

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