College will offer new study-abroad program in Israel

A team of professors traveled to Ben-Gurion University in Israel in anticipation of a study-abroad partnership with the College. (Photo courtesy of Luke Butler)

The College is partnering with Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Be’er-Sheva, Israel for a new study-abroad opportunity, to be offered starting in Fall 2011, said Jon Stauff, director of the Center for Global Engagement.

According to Stauff, all study-abroad programs are evaluated and approved by the International Education Program Council, a committee composed of faculty and students that is part of the College’s shared governance structure.

“We try to provide students with study-abroad choices that fit their academic degree programs,” Stauff said in an e-mail, “and we also try to identify opportunities for students to pursue career preparation goals (in internship placements as well as service-learning and volunteer programs).”

Luke K. Butler, assistant professor of biology, went with a small number of professors to BGU in January on an official College visit “to see their program and what it has to offer (College) students.”

“BGU appeared to me to be much like any medium-sized university here,” Butler said in an e-mail. “They have a large campus, a big library and student center, big academic buildings and labs, dorms, undergrads, graduate students, and an associated hospital which is involved in medical research and teaching as well as serving the local community.”

“Of course the people come from much different backgrounds than most people here in the U.S., but that’s probably your major purpose in going there — to be with them and learn about their lives and their cultures and perspectives,” Butler said. “The surrounding country is incredibly beautiful and obviously full of historical sites … I also spent a little bit of time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and (College) students studying at BGU will have no problem visiting those cities as well.”

Stauff talked about some of the classes and programs that would be offered to College students at BGU.

“BGU offers (College) students a wide array of academic opportunities, and not just in Hebrew language and Jewish studies,” Stauff said. “There are great courses in history, international studies, political science, film studies, sociology and anthropology, plus there is a tremendous program in biology and sustainability studies that offers fascinating coursework as well as research opportunities.”

When asked why Israel was chosen for the College’s next study abroad program, Stauff said, “We had no approved programs in Israel, yet we had students with an interest in traveling there for study abroad. Quite a few of our students travel to Israel on Birthright programs, and their senses are awakened to the country’s culture and beauty — they want to see more and experience Israeli life.”

The College also has a Middle Eastern Studies minor program and provides study abroad opportunities in Egypt and Jordan.

“A program in Israel complements the programs in Egypt and Jordan,” Stauff said. “We sincerely hope that students will go to all three countries, gain insights and perspectives about the shared issues in the region and come back to share their knowledge with their peers and become informed global citizens in our communities.”

Students taking advantage of the program, according to Stauff, will be able to earn up to six units of credit in one semester and can fulfill their language requirement in Hebrew at BGU. The cost of the six units, plus housing, food and a plane ticket, will be about the same as the costs of tuition and room and board for an in-state College student, he said. The courses are taught in English.

“Clearly, the Middle East is an immensely important part of the world for people from the United States to be engaged with, and studying in Israel means being immersed in a diverse society in the heart of the Middle East,” Butler said.

“I can’t stress this enough — our office in Green Hall is here to help students find exciting international opportunities for students interested in both academics and a personal adventure,” Stauff said. “There is something for everyone, in all budget categories. Employers will look favorably at any international experience on a résumé — it shows that students have left their comfort zones and challenged themselves to learn new things, and that quality is something that every potential employer will value.”

There are two application deadlines each year for studying abroad — Sept. 25 and Feb. 25. There is also a study abroad fair every September. For more information on studying abroad in Israel or any of the other many destinations, visit tcnj.edu/~goglobal.

Caroline Russomanno can be reached at russoma4@tcnj.edu.