Overcoming Adversity to Aspire and Inspire

With her bubbly, upbeat personality, it’s hard to imagine that BIU undergrad Sivan Abravaya has had to contend with major adversity during her 23 years. Born in Bulgaria, she spent the first four years of her life in an orphanage in Sofia before her adoptive Israeli parents brought her “home” to Ramat Gan. In school, she persevered to learn “the three Rs” undeterred by learning disabilities. Four years ago while serving as an IDF medic, she contracted a rare virus that left her visually impaired. But that didn’t stop her from completing her army service and enrolling last year in BIU’s Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience (Israel’s first and only one to grant a BSc in the field). Combining brain science with linguistics, she was drawn to BIU because of its high academic standards, cutting-edge research and Sybil Wigdor Social Involvement Unit, which she says “goes out of its way to help, with a magnifying machine and mentors to read texts and assist me in preparing for tests.”


Abravaya, who is not from a traditional background, also attends the “Reshit” basic Jewish learning program at the Midrasha, which is part of the Ludwig and Erica Jesselson Institute for Advanced Torah Studies. “My Talmud, Bible, Prayer and Jewish Thought courses are stimulating and our teachers are always willing to answer questions.”


She opines that BIU is in a league of its own in terms of empathy and social atmosphere. “We help each other, study together for tests, and eat together during breaks,” says Abravaya, who often meets up with her parents – “students” in BIU’s Brookdale Enrichment Program for the Golden Aged.


This year, engaged in volunteer initiatives “I’ve always wanted to do,” she helps high risk children with their homework, visits an elderly woman, and is spearheading a project for high schoolers to visit third agers in assisted-living facilities.


Not one to be limited by disability, she asserts, “I want to obtain my BSc and MSc, pursue an academic or research career, and find better ways for people with learning challenges to study, and change attitudes via education with real emphasis on morals and ethics.” “I see the world differently, using my other senses and intuitiveness,” she says, relaying that she’s a great guesser. Once she even beat her boyfriend (a Technion grad in space and aeronautics) at Ping Pong. “He was amazed that I was able to follow his motions and figure out which way the ball was coming.”


Sivan Abravaya says she enjoys running – “and so what if I fall, I will get up and continue on!” That seems to be the BIU undergrad’s life motto as she cheerfully pursues her goals, with seeing-eye Labrador, “Happy” at her side.