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A first in a decade, California university allows study abroad in Israel

The Library Quad on the campus of California State University, Sacramento.

The Library Quad on the campus of California State University, Sacramento.
Photo Credit: Devin Cook

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For the first time in nearly a decade, students who attend any of the 23 campuses of the California State University (CSU) system can study abroad in Israel. This fall marks the first time since 2002 that CSU students have been allowed to study at the University of Haifa.

In 2002, CSU and the University of California (UC) discontinued study abroad in Israel programs, due to warnings that had been issued by the U.S. State Department. UC reinstated its Israel study program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2009, and CSU followed suit earlier this year.

This semester, three CSU students will study at University of Haifa through the CSU International programs. The three students all are studying in Israel for the full academic year as CSU does not yet offer one-semester options in Israel.

CSU International Programs Assistant Director of Student Affairs Dana Roson said that the small number of participants in the University of Haifa option was unsurprising because the program is in its first year.

“It’s going to take some time for word of mouth to get around,” Roson said. “Study abroad alumni are the best marketing tool and we expect this program to go when this year’s participants return.”

Another possible explanation for the small number of students participating in the program is that CSU has academic restrictions on the destinations students can choose to study.

“We are a very academic program,” Roson said. “The students’ major and requirements have to line up with the academic offerings at the university abroad.”

Eran Hoch, the Israel fellow at California State University, Fullerton, said that the reintroduction of Israel study provides students with new opportunities to learn about Israeli culture from within.

“Studying in Israel with other students the same age is becoming more appealing to California students,” Hoch said. “This program is a great way for students to learn about Israel by studying like Israelis and being with other Israelis.”

Hoch said that he, along with other campus professionals at California schools, will use the new study abroad option to encourage more students to learn about Israel.

When the UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) reinstated its Hebrew University program in 2009, a total of 25 UC students opted to study in Jerusalem for either a semester or a full year. Ines DeRomana, UCEAP Principal Analyst for Health, Safety, and Response said that the number of 2009 program participants was actually a big drop from the program size before the option was put on hiatus.

“The Hebrew University option had been very popular before 2002,” she said. “When we brought it back, students were very interested and excited about it.”

DeRomana estimates that around 55 students were participating in the Hebrew University program in 2001, before the program went on hiatus. This year, 14 students will study in Israel for a full year or for fall semester only. DeRomana said that number will increase when figures for spring semester-only students become available.

Students at UC campuses will soon have a new option to study in Israel. Starting next fall, UC students will be able to study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) for a semester or a full year, in addition to the Hebrew University option.

In addition to the UC system-wide study abroad program, UC Irvine (UCI) and BGU will implement an exchange program for medical school students. BGU and UCI signed a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this year after UCI Chancellor Michael Drake visited Israel on a trip arranged by the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.

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In 2002, California State University system cancelled study abroad programs in Israel due to U.S. State Department warnings. The University has 23 campuses in different cities throughout California and almost 427,000 students.

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