ROME — Students from Hebrew University in Jerusalem returned to The Lay Centre for the second year to study Italian, discover the city, and make new friends.
Twelve students of different nationalities and majoring in different subjects took part in The Lay Centre’s four-week program "Buongiorno Roma". From Monday to Friday each week, they attended Italian class in the morning at the Pontifical Gregorian University and explored the city in the afternoon.
They had meals with The Lay Centre community and enjoyed the opportunity of making new friends with such an international community. At the end of a long day of Italian immersion, however, they would understandably slip sometimes into Hebrew or Arabic at table.
Some resident scholars at The Lay Centre were assigned to serve as local supports for these students, so that the latter may have someone to go to for advice or need.
“They are all nice and easygoing people and they are experiencing a real coexistence here: there are not that many places in the world where you can see an Arab Christian, an Arab Muslim and an Israeli Jew enjoying their time together and exchanging to get to know each other better,” said a Lay Centre scholar of Arab origin.
The Lay Centre also organized some walking tours, movie nights and gelato evenings. For Hebrew University student Francis Raad, the highlight of the program was a special tour of Trinitŕ dei Monti, the church and adjoining monastery situated at the top of the Spanish Steps.
There, they met with Father Rafael, a friend of The Lay Centre, who is very interested in Jewish-Catholic dialogue and who knows Jerusalem well.
“The best thing about this program was getting to know new people and new students from different cultures and places of the world,” said Taima Abdo, another student of Hebrew University. “Also the food here was great. We got the chance to try different Italian dishes each day, thanks to The Lay Centre’s chefs.”
Relationships were very much part of the one-month experience: “hospitality” was a keyword that recurred in the feedback from Hebrew University students.“Every resident we approached was very caring and nice,” said Noa Maymon, also a student at Hebrew University.
This time abroad also gave them the opportunity to get to know their fellow classmates better.
“I realized that some of my fellow students are very different from what I thought. They are actually kinder and more open-minded,” said Abdo.
“Right now, we are much more a group than we were before,” said Maymon.