UGalilee gives students historical foundation

Nicky Cassinera, a participant in the UGalilee program, excavated a centuries-old artifact alongside four other UM students during one of the program’s archaeology digs in the spring of 2010.

“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 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 attended ORT Braude College in Karmiel, a city in the Galilee area of Israel. Last spring, the program ran from February 14 to June 13, which corresponded with the Israeli academic schedule.

The program, started by the Miller Center and George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies, was developed to provide a greater learning opportunity in the field of Judaic Studies that would meets the academic and financial needs of students.

The focus of the 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.

Pre-med, international studies, journalism and communication, Judaic Studies and social science and humanities are among the tracks listed that students can choose to participate in.

The motto of the program is “the countryside is the classroom” because it takes learning outside of the normal classroom setting.  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.

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

“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.”