Voices of TAU: “I Hope to Start a New Life Experience Here”
A Chinese student, stranded in Sderot during the initial days of the conflict, finds her way back to Tel Aviv, thanks to the timely assistance of the Lowy International Student Life team.
Zhi Li, from China, is currently pursuing her master’s at the Lowy International School of Tel Aviv University. She is not new to Israel — having visited her aunt in June 2022, Zhi liked Israel so much that she decided to come to Tel Aviv University to study and eventually find a job in the country. In her own words, "I hope to start a new life experience here."
Starting at Lowy International
Zhi Li kicked off her studies in August. However, before that, she attended intensive Hebrew classes during the university's summer Ulpan program. She has been residing in the Broshim dorms for over two months, where she discovered a welcoming and supportive community.
She fondly recalls her experiences,
"Madrichim organized social gatherings with residents, a Jewish Shabbat dinner, and a card game TAKI.
They also provided a lot of help in the school office. What impressed me the most was that dinner. It was a new experience for me. I felt that it was not only a meal but also an opportunity for in-depth communication between families."
Navigating Harrowing Days
During the terrorist attack on October 7, Zhi Li was visiting her aunt in Sderot, a town in close proximity to Gaza. Due to the fighting, she had to stay in the town for three days, unable to leave. Fortunately, the Lowy International Student Life team came to her aid, ensuring her safe return to Tel Aviv.
Zhi Li shares her experience,
"I never thought I would be so close to terrorists. I even heard gunfire on the first night. There were a lot of rockets fired simultaneously, so I wanted to get out of there, but all the transportation was closed, and I couldn't get back to the dorm by myself.
On the third day, I contacted my teachers, and they provided a phone number, which was the contact information for the student life team leader, Efrat. I contacted her and told her about my circumstances, hoping she could help me. That night, she enthusiastically helped me get in touch with a car driver to take me back to the dorm, but due to an attack on the road, the car could not pass. She then told me a car would pick me up the next day.
At noon the next day, two volunteers came to pick me up. They chatted with me on the way to help me relax. The volunteers first took me to a place where they rested. After a while, another volunteer took me to my dorm in Tel Aviv.
I am very grateful to everyone who helped me. Although it was a hard time for everyone, I still felt warm."
Finding Strength and Safety in Tel Aviv
Upon returning from Sderot, Zhi Li was able to reunite with her aunt’s family, who also relocated to Tel Aviv. "We can take care of each other, which makes me feel more at ease," says Zhi, adding "I feel safe here, so I decided to stay and continue with my course at TAU."
She comments: "At the same time, I can also seek help from madrichim and the teachers, who are all very helpful. I also believe that the IDF, which I've seen a lot on the news lately, can protect us all."
"I hope for better days."
Despite the challenges, Zhi Li remains committed to her studies at Tel Aviv University. She is currently enrolled in seven courses and three research forums.
"The courses are intensive with a lot of assignments, but the teachers are extremely helpful, which makes my studies more fulfilling," says Zhi Li. In addition, she continues her Hebrew language studies, aiming to make progress.