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Safety Concerns with New Tel Aviv Program

“Experience Israel like never before,” says the Rollins advertising sheet for studying at Tel Aviv University. As of this fall, Rollins College offers students the opportunity to study at Tel Aviv University for an academic year or semester. But so far no students have applied, a fact which may be explained by the Department of State’s warning of the risk of travelling to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“We don’t actually have anyone going in the spring, which isn’t unusual for a new program, because you have to get the word out and get the students aware of the new opportunity,” says Giselda Beaudin, Director of International Programs. She doesn’t think that the lack of interest has to do with Israel’s current situation. Rollins’ short-term trips to Israel have always been filled in the last years and there have never been problems. “We wouldn’t have chosen it if we had risk concerns,” Beaudin says. “If something got to a point where we felt that the State Department were saying U.S. citizens should not be travelling there, then we probably would come out of the program at this time or bring a student home if we had a student there,” Beaudin says.

That International Travel Information of the Department of State in August 2012 warns that U.S. citizens should remain mindful of security factors when planning travel to Israel and the West Bank and should avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. “Certain areas are definitely more dangerous but the media over-exaggerates how dangerous it actually is over there,” says Eitan Lewin ‘15, an international business major at Rollins.

He is from the coast of Israel and has lived in the United States since he was six years old. “It is a normal country,” he says. “There are cities, people and jobs.”

Lewin goes home every year to see his family and describes the people in Israel to be more straightforward than Americans.

“Tel Aviv is incredible,” says Lewin. “It is crazy. It is a party city. Partying, clubs, gambling, beach – it’s like the Miami of Israel.” He definitely recommends studying abroad at Tel Aviv University.

According to Beaudin, Israel is a very common study abroad destination with excellent programs. “In the Middle East, Israel is actually really stable and it has got pretty excellent infrastructure, and the university is very well established.” She explains that hot spots like the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are very clear and students are not allowed to go there during their stay abroad. She thinks that students of Jewish heritage look differently at Israel’s situation because they often know people who actually live in Israel. So she supposes that in the future there will be probably more applicants of Jewish heritage.

New study abroad programs are typically based on a student’s request or the faculty’s interest. “Egypt still seems a little bit shaky to me,” says Beaudin. “So I wouldn’t start a program there. But there is an interest in Turkey.” Rollins’ International Department regularly monitors information from the State Department and from embassies within foreign countries.

“I tend to think that most places in the world at this point are high risk,” says Beaudin. “It happens everywhere. There are not really places where you can say ‘oh that would never happen here.’”

The three largest study abroad programs of Rollins have been Sydney, Shanghai and an internship program in London. Students can apply for fall semesters and academic year programs 2013/2014 until Feb. 25.

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