A few days before the craziness that comes with the beginning of any school year, Masa Israel held an intensive two day training
for staff working with overseas students at universities around Israel. The purpose of this seminar was twofold—to provide tangible tools and an in-depth exploration of the nature of our work with foreign students, and to create a network of professional contacts which we could then call upon throughout the year. And of course, the fun was not forgotten!
The seminar included multiple interactive sessions where experts were brought in to discuss a variety of topics. One of the first topics focused on the cultural and subtle differences between Israelis and foreigners (mostly Americans). Besides the obvious—and hilarious—role-playing and scenarios, an important discussion was initiated on the implications of culture on the nature of our work.
Things which may be perceived as helpful, rude, or supportive are only as valid (or invalid) as those who perceive them—aka, the students. Thus, it is important for staff to understand cultural differences in order to be as positive of an influence as possible.
The next day we discussed different methods of communication, including word choice, tone and body language. We debated over the different messages we may want to give our students and were able to transform our message into powerful communication.
The seminar’s activities ended with a Segway tour in Jerusalem-and for those of you who thought it was impossible to fall off of a Segway, you stand corrected! The tour took us around the Armon Hanatziv area of Jerusalem (near Talpiyot), with stops for explanations on Jerusalem and its complexities (and racing one another).
Although this is where the official seminar ended, the implications and benefits of the seminar reach far beyond the specific workshops we went through. The seminar provided real methods for strengthening the programs of university exchange in Israel. Seminars like this one are a vital part in the process of any madrich’s work with a student population, and are an invaluable part of our networking and enhancing ideas. And of course, this seminar was a blast for its participants!