Israel Study Abroad programs to continue despite conflict

Israel Study Abroad programs to continue despite conflict

AU will continue fall 2014 study abroad programs to Israel, despite current conflicts in the region. Students who planned on studying in Israel this fall have been given the option to defer or cancel without penalties.

“At present, we are not cancelling any of our programs,” Sarah Dumont, director of AU Abroad said. “Our Israeli partner universities have all been keeping in contact and they are operating normally.”

There are no undergraduate students currently studying abroad in Israel, Dumont said.

Israel began a ground invasion of Gaza on July 17. As of July 23, over 700 Palestinians and 32 Israelis have been killed, according to a report from Reuters.

AU is concerned about the escalating violence, but confident in its decision to continue the programs, according to Dumont.

“Israel, with the history it has, the universities have very highly developed and sophisticated security plans,” Dumont said. “They coordinate and collaborate with each other as well.”

In the past, AU students studying abroad have been taken in by other Israeli universities if their host university wasn’t secure, meaning they could stay in the country and continue their studies, Dumont said.

AU would evacuate students if need be, Dumont said, but it would take an extreme act for that to happen.

“If any one of the campuses in Israel were hit by a rocket, for example, I would pull my students out,” she said. “I don’t think that’s likely to happen.”

However, if students do have to evacuate Israel, there is no guarantee tuition would be refunded. It would depend on if the host university refunded AU, according to Dumont.

Students who choose to no longer go on an Israel program can attempt to enroll in a different study abroad program instead, according to Dumont.

School of International Service and College of Arts and Sciences junior Kevin Levy is still planning on studying at the University of Haifa in northern Israel this fall.

“Studying abroad is more than just sitting in a class with foreign students, it’s about the total immersive experience,” Levy wrote in an email. “I’ve been to Israel once before, but I only barely scratched the surface, and so I’m very eager to go back.”

Levy is confident that Israel’s military and defense systems, along with Haifa’s distance from Gaza, will keep him safe, he said.

“[I’ve told my family] they should worry when I begin to worry, which hasn’t happened yet,” he said. “For me, it appears as though the only thing that could change my mind would be if rockets from Gaza, Syria or Lebanon landed within the city limits of Haifa.”

The closest rocket to Haifa landed about 31 miles outside of the city, according to a release from Hanan Alexander, dean of University of Haifa’s International School.

This is not the first time AU students have ventured into troubled regions. The University has been forced to evacuate students from Syria, Egypt and Japan in recent years.

“We know that our emergency procedures work,” Dumont said. “We have experience actually doing it now, not just on paper, not just with simulations. We’ve done it in the past and we’ve done it successfully.”

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