Got my degree – yay!


Experiencing the bureaucratic runaround


acknowledging benefits gained

by Forest Rain, Lionheart  June 22.6.06


This week I got my degree! Well, to be more specific, what I actually received is a piece of paper that says that I successfully completed my studies. I don’t have the actual diploma in hand but what I have is the document that matters. 

By the end of my final year of college I had had enough of academia. The tedious process of completing class assignments and getting back the grades seemed to stretch on for an eternity. My final project was due six months after the school year was over and the teacher was allocated a big chunk of time to check and grade all the projects. Before I officially graduated from college I had already moved on to the rest of my life: I began working at expanding and improving my mother’s clinic, building her website, creating advertisements and implementing the Instructional Design skills I learned in college to the benefit of workshops and courses she gives. At the same time I began Lionheart and put much of my focus on deciding how I want to utilize my life and make it meaningful. I had completed my college obligations and begun a new chapter in life.  

As a girl in America I imagined that graduating from college would be a major life-landmark. Instead it slipped under my radar. I completely forgot about graduating in an actual ceremony! 

Unlike in the US, where graduation occurs almost immediately after the course work is completed, in Israel graduation ceremonies are held a year after the end of classes.  To tell you the truth, I didn’t (and still don’t) exactly understand the procedure for graduating from college in Israel.  

No one calls or writes to say that all the grades are in and you are set to graduate. My school has an electronic system where you can check your grades online but the system doesn’t always work and the grade from my last class didn’t appear there. Being busy at work I kept forgetting to call and check on my grade during the hours when the school office was open. When I finally remembered to do so, I found out that everything was fine after which I promptly put school completely out of my mind! 

It was only when an ex-classmate told me he had gone to graduation the day before and wondered why I wasn’t there (he said “Do you still have credits you need to complete?”) that I realized I had completely forgotten about officially graduating from college. 

I called the school secretary to find out what I needed to do and she said: “What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you come fill out the forms last month?” I had no idea what she was talking about. She said, “But I sent everyone a letter nine months ago!” It was taken for granted that everyone received that letter and understood the instructions on the procedure to be completed before graduating…  

So off I went back to my school and got all my forms signed. They have an old fashioned, pre-technological system:  the student has to physically go from one office to the other and have different people sign forms saying that you did everything you were supposed to do and didn’t do things you weren’t supposed to do: tuition was all paid up; no books unreturned to the library etc. At the end of all that running around the student is given a document that says all obligations toward the degree are completed. More things need to be done before I receive my diploma but the “she graduated document” I now possess is the one I actually need.  

Sitting across from the school secretary I asked what I need to be do to receive the actual diploma. She loves to be helpful. Smiling she answered, “Stay in touch with me. Call me.” How crazy is that? No timetable, no specific action or directions and to her this was a helpful answer! The Israeli people are talented in an extraordinary number of ways. Unfortunately putting people through a bureaucratic runaround is one of them! 

I’m still American enough to wish things were organized, clear and straightforward. Thankfully I am Israeli enough to be able to roll with the punches and not be surprised when I come across this type of situation. I have what I need so, who cares about everything else?  

The frustration resulting from the bureaucratic runaround or cliché moments such as graduation ceremonies (nice as they might be) pale in comparison to the long term benefits I gained from college.

I really enjoyed studying at my school. Tel Hai College has an attractive campus with a very relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. The vast majority of people I encountered were pleasant and kind. During my three years there, I learned an extraordinary amount of useful information and acquired skills that are essential for the work I do today. I had the pleasure of studying with three brilliant teachers who gave us excellent class materials and taught us life lessons, exemplifying what it means to be a teacher and guide for others. A fourth teacher taught a class that at the time I found disagreeable and now recognize to have been an experience that honed my analytical skills in a way that I would never have experienced otherwise.  

One teacher was exceptionally skilled at giving the perfect example to illuminate the most complex of ideas. Dry theory became alive, vibrant and very relevant to day to day life.

Another teacher taught about story telling and creativity. His lessons greatly improved my writing ability. He drove us to create, demanding that we find new ways to convey ideas. If the class came up with two ways he would push us to find a third, just so we could expand our minds that much more. He showed by example that the mind has endless potential to create and innovate.  

Another teacher taught lessons so sophisticated that class material was elevated to the level of life lessons. Big, technical projects became a journey to comprehend the joy of the process of creation rather than simply focusing on end results. Classes where we studied different methods of learning and comprehending became lessons on acceptance, tolerance, flexibility and seeing perfection in things being exactly as they are. All this he did as a matter of course rather than through didactic teachings. He taught by example. As a student, all I had to do was pay attention to the man in front of me. He taught to experience rather than just go through the motions, to do rather than just think about something, to analyze rather than simply accepting another’s truth. Never before have I witnessed so much joy, intelligence knowledge and wisdom encapsulated in one person. If I’m lucky, maybe some day I will again.     

All in all, I feel very blessed.

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