Northwestern to offer three new study-abroad programs in Israel

Lauren Caruba , Assistant Campus Editor

As part of a re-evaluation of the University’s risk assessment policy for students traveling abroad, Northwestern will soon offer three new undergraduate study abroad programs in Israel.

Starting in January 2013, students will be able to participate in study abroad programs at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er-Sheva, as well as an exchange program through Tel Aviv University, said Greg Buchanan, program coordinator for International Program Development.

The programs offer credit-approved courses in a variety of fields, including Jewish and Hebrew studies, engineering, Middle East studies and global health, according to a news release issued last week by International Program Development and Global Health Studies.

Although undergraduates have previously been able to study abroad in Israel through NU’s Fiedler Hillel Center, NU’s Study Abroad Office and International Program Development office are now assuming the administrative responsibilities for the programs, said Michael Simon, executive director of Hillel.

Simon said the Hillel program “basically looked and felt like it was a study abroad program,” because it followed University guidelines and courses were offered for academic credit.

However, because the programs were technically affiliated with Hillel and not NU, students assumed an “inactive” status as NU students, said Cydney Topaz, former associate director of Hillel. Although students maintained contact with the University, some students had to temporarily unenroll from NU and seek credit for their courses later on.

Though the programs at Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University have previously served as study abroad sites for NU students, the program at Tel Aviv University is a new official site that will also enable exchange students from Israel to come study in the United States.

The sites in Jerusalem and Be’er-Sheva were suspended years ago after the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning for the country, said Julie Friend, associate director of international safety and security in the Study Abroad Office. DOS Travel Warnings are issued for countries the federal government considers dangerous for travel.

Hillel took over running the programs about six years ago because numerous students expressed interest in studying in the country and Hillel had experience with sending students to Israel through summer and birthright programs, Topaz said. She estimated that more than 60 students have studied in Israel through Hillel since 2006.

After the Study Abroad Office updated its travel policy to account for differing degrees of safety within certain parts of the country, the office reached out to Hillel to take over the program, Friend said.

Running the programs through the regular study abroad channels allows students to apply for financial aid and participate in programs through University services, Simon said. Students who studied through the Hillel programs had to apply for scholarships and grants to fund their travels.

Friend said running the program through NU will also keep students safer when they study abroad because international universities will be more aware of University emergency response protocol.

“You want to be able to control the students’ experience, you want to make sure they have equal access to information, resources and services, just like all the other study abroad students,” Friend said.

The undergraduate programs join graduate offerings in Israel through Kellogg School of Management and NU’s School of Law that have been established for a number of years.

Communication senior Mallory Ladenheim studied at Tel Aviv University during Winter and Spring Quarters last year. She said running the programs through the Study Abroad Office will allow a larger pool of students, with relevant majors like Middle Eastern and religious studies, to study abroad in the country.

“Unfortunately, beforehand it was limited to Jewish students because they were the only ones who had knowledge about it,” she said. “I hope now that more people will participate than they had in the past.”

The University is also currently reviewing a study abroad site in Merida, Mexico, which was likewise suspended due to travel warnings. Because the site has been inactive for years, study abroad faculty advisors are evaluating the Mexican university to ensure the academics meet NU’s standards, Friend said.

NU is also looking at other universities in the Yucatan Peninsula and Kenya, she added.