I read with excitement an article in this week’s J indicating that the University of California is reinstating its Education Abroad Program (EAP) to Israel.
When I was a freshman in college, one of my professors took an interest in me and my intended career path. Professor Hecht told me that I would go to Israel for my junior year and when I return I would study Hebrew texts with him. It was all in order to better prepare me for the career path I was hoping to pursue.
I didn’t realize when he advised me that Prof. Hecht oversaw the entire U.C. Education Abroad Program. If he said I was going, I was pretty much going. I also didn’t realize what I was getting into… that’s in the best sense.
I was excited at the possibility of spending a year in Israel, a bit nervous, but all-in-all thrilled for the opportunity. I couldn’t have imagined how amazing an experience it would be.
In addition, the particular details of U.C.’s program made it all the better. In comparison to other overseas university programs, the U.C. students were well taken care of. We had special tours arranged and guest speakers for our group. We had an office and an amazing office administrator who served as our surrogate mom in Israel, and while most foreign students were fraught with the mystery of whether they would receive any credit for their coursework in Israel, we easily had all of our grades transfer, including those in our majors.
(It was a long year, but Laura came to visit midway through.)
The University of California determined in 2002 that travel to Israel was not sufficiently safe enough for its students. Several other American universities followed the U.S. State Department warning and suspended their programs in Israel.
While tourism to Israel has been down in recent years, these actions certainly did not prevent students from spending time in Israeli universities. However, the return of U.C.’s EAP is welcome, not only for the confidence it shows in Israel but also for the wonderful educational opportunities it will return to students.
I highly recommend the University of California Education Abroad Program. It shaped who I am today.