“I feel like I’m entering the first grade,” said Hala Khamesy, from Mi’ilya near Ma’alot, who started her undergraduate studies at Tel Aviv University on Sunday.

Sunglasses on hand, she wandered around the campus on Sunday morning to “familiarize with the place” before attending her first class later that afternoon. “It’s so huge here, I am afraid I will get lost,” she said.

Khamesy, who is going to study biology, hasn’t been sleeping much in the past few days. “It’s not easy to adjust to living in the dorms, with roommates,” she explained, “but I stay optimistic, I hope the lecturers are nice and I hope I find good friends here,” she said, with a smile.

Like most Israeli universities and colleges, TAU’s campus looked much like a street fair on Sunday as music was playing and beer was served to the students who were wondering in between jewelry and clothing stands. Large companies such as Bank Leumi also took advantage of the events to set up a stand and hand out flyers in an attempt to convince students to use their services.

“So far so good,” said Lior Almon, who is starting her second year at TAU after leaving a school in the Jerusalem area. “There is so much life on this campus, it’s a great first impression,” she added while standing under the student union’s tent in the shade. “It’s pretty hot, good thing they are handing out free shakes!” she said, having to raise her voice because of the loud music playing in the background.

Students who attend TAU come from all over Israel, but some, like Shane Goodson, are from much farther away.

Goodson, from South Africa, made aliya eight years ago, served in the army and has received his BA in government from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. This year, he is expecting to graduate from TAU with his master’s degree in security studies.

“I feel good, I’m excited to finish studying and finally see what I can really do with them,” he said, holding a cold dripping glass of beer. “I am a little worried about my thesis and what job I’ll find after this but it’ll be fine, I’ll leave that for the second semester, worry about it later,” he added.

While those who had classes on Sunday hung out on a festive campus, others, whose weekly classes only starts on Mondays, got one more day of vacation.

According to the Council for Higher Education, 305,550 students will study this year in 67 higher education institutions all over the country, half of which are new students.

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