(From left to right Nicky Cassinera, Aimee Gonzalez, Jeremy Altman, Jimi Tynan, Nicholas Bill) Students from Spring 2010 UGalilee trip to israel enjoy a hike in Karmiel, Israel. "Anyone who ever thought of, dreamed of or considered to go to and experience the Middle East, this is your chance. In Israel you will have a chance to live in the heart of human history, walking where ancient Roman Soldiers walked while conquering most of the known world. From the best cuisine I've ever eaten to the magical quality about a place lived in and cherished by humans for so long, Israel and the UGalilee program has been the best choice I made in my college career," says Nicholas Bill, a junior at the University of Miami studying anthropology and geology. Courtesy Nicky Cassinera

When UM student Nicky Cassinera signed up for the UGalilee program in spring 2010, she had no idea what was in store for her.

During one of the program’s archaeology digs, she and the four other UM students in her group excavated a centuries-old artifact.

“We found a reliquarium,” she said, which is a box dating back to the 6th-7th century A.D that was used to transport oils from the church to the homes of the wealthy.

The UGalilee program offered launched in January 2009 and is offered in the spring semester only. The program piloted with about five students, but is looking to expand that number from 10-15 students.

“UGalilee is something that is completely out of the range of the student’s experience. No other university program will give them this,” said Eugene Rothman, associate director and academic development senior fellow of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at UM. “I know the students that have gone and have all loved it.”

The students attend ORT Braude College in Karmiel, a city in Galilee area of Israel. This spring, the program will run from Feb. 14 to June 13, which corresponds with the Israeli academic schedule.

The deadline for applications for UGalilee 2011 is Dec. 15. After that date,  applications will be considered on a space-available basis.

The program — started by the Miller Center and George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies — was developed to help students learn more in the field of Judaic Studies as well as to give a study abroad program that would successfully help with student’s financial aid and give UM credits that can be transferred over.

The focus of the core program is the history, geography, archaeology, cultures and religions that evolved in the Galilee over the ages. UGalilee also features a three-week intensive Hebrew language program at the start of the semester.

The tracks offered in the study abroad program include pre-med, international studies, journalism/communication, Judaic Studies and social science and humanities.

The motto of the program is “the countryside is the classroom” because it takes learning outside of the normal classrooms.  Students participate in hands-on activities every week, including spending about six to eight hours in an archaeological survey class with a well-known archaeologist, as well as going on archaeological digs every week – like the one last year when the students discovered the reliquarium.

The students also directly associate with the Israeli students; for every one UM student in a dorm, there is about three Israeli students.

“This makes for global relationships; one student last semester was good friends with one of the Israeli students, and he went backpacking in Jordan with his friend next year,” said Rothman.

UM students who have been part of the program describe the study aboard program as an amazing experience.

“The UGalilee program has been the best study abroad program I could have chosen,” said senior Jimi Tynan in a testimonial about the program. “As an archaeology major, this not only suited my major, but also influenced what I will study in the future. Being raised as a non-Jew I did not know much about Israel. But after this program, I still cannot believe what an amazing country it is and how great the people are.”

Bijal Mehta may be contacted at


Deadline for application: Dec. 15

For more information on the UGalilee 2011 program, go to