In an interview for the Lowy International Bulletin
, Efrat Ambar, the head of the Student Life Team
at The Lowy International School, talks about the adjustments to the student life calendar, challenges presented by the current war, and the overarching goals of her team.
—How would you say your role has shifted since October 7?
The day the war started was the same day that international students were scheduled to arrive at TAU, October 8. No one knew what was going on and we had to react very quickly.
We had a semester’s worth of scheduled activities and that all changed in a moment.
We’re still in reaction mode today, and we’re really focusing on ensuring wellbeing and safety. I’m more in touch personally with students than I usually am because I want to make sure they know who to call and come to if they need help. At the same time, we’re holding activities on campus as much as we can to provide that sense of belonging and community for our students.
—Student life on campus must be quite unique these days, given the war. Can you describe your experience with the current cohort of international TAU students?
We have a very diverse student body, but at the same time many of them have a special motive for choosing to stay on campus here with us. We have a number of Jewish students here who really feel a special connection with Israel right now; we have students from the Disaster Management
program who say there’s no better time to be here to study; and we have a student from Denmark who said she would still rather be in Tel Aviv than in the snow.
Also, there are a number of students who simply decided that coming and staying was the best choice for them. We’re really happy they’re all here with us; they are a very special group. This year’s cohort on campus also tends to be enthusiastic about joining events.
We’re holding gatherings in the dorms and on campus, events with special guests, yoga classes, movie nights, Shabbat dinners, picnics and tours — options that allow us to continue to be safe — and we almost always have a great turnout.
Even when we hold something like a trivia night, 25 students will come out. We really do have a great group of engaged students.
—What would you say has been the highlight of your job these past couple of months?
I was asked to create a WhatsApp group for lone soldiers who are studying in TAU’s international programs, and I decided to call each of them personally.
I remember one student, in particular – he was just so positive and charming, and he made me laugh so much. He also said he was heading into Gaza the very next day. I can’t tell you how kind and happy he was, how he made my day.
—Do you have a holiday wish?
My wish is to see all the students back at TAU, and for all the soldiers to come back, and for all the hostages to come back, too. I’m not sure it’s possible to wish for anything else these days.
We really can’t wait to have all our students back with us; we’ve planned a lot for them, and we miss them here.