Summer study abroad program offers students internships in Israel and Palestine

July 16, 2008 by Beth Sitzler NMSU News Center

A summer study abroad internship program hosted by George Mason University offers students at New Mexico State University and other universities a unique first hand opportunity to study and work in Israel and Palestine.

Nancy A. Oretskin, an NMSU professor in the College of Business, is the faculty co-director of the program, which is directed by Yehuda Lukacs, who is also the director of the Center for Global Education at George Mason University.

“The idea of the eight-week long program is to allow students a hands-on view of Israel and Palestine,” Oretskin said. “It gets them out of the classroom and allows them an opportunity to expand on what they learn in their text books. Internships in areas of students’ interests are offered.”

Oretskin assisted Lukacs in creating the program after going to Israel in 2005 on a Fullbright scholarship. She works collaboratively with Lukacs in organizing the academic structure of the program, as well as assigning students to their internship placements. She has joined the program each summer, but this summer she was only able to attend the last four weeks of the program in Israel.

This is the third summer NMSU has participated in the program, which is held from June 1 to July 30. This year, the program took 30 students, 10 from George Mason University, 10 from America University in Washington D.C. and 10 students from various universities, including one student from NMSU.

Jesus Antonio Reza Valencia, an undergraduate business student majoring in finance and a member of the NMSU Model United Nations team, is working as an intern at an asset management  company in Tel Aviv, just one of the 29 different locations the students are sent.

Many of the internships are related to conflict resolution or aspects of civil society in Israel and Palestine.

“Israel and Palestine clearly play a role in world events and this is a fantastic opportunity for students with very different disciplines and backgrounds to enhance their college experience,” Oretskin said.

During the program, students not only work as interns, but are required to keep a journal, write essays, give an oral presentation and attend various seminars and workshops.

When they first arrive in Jerusalem, the students participate in a week-long seminar before they are sent to their internships. During this seminar, leading Israeli and Palestinian experts, representatives from various non-governmental organizations, think tanks, peace activists, business and government officials discuss relevant issues for Israelis and Palestinians. This includes two tours of Jerusalem, one with a tour guide from Israel and the other with a tour guide from Palestine, to provide students with a balanced view.

Oretskin said graduate students receive six credits and undergraduate students receive nine credits for participating in the program. NMSU recently passed a resolution that allows students to use study abroad program credits to fulfill the general education requirement.

“NMSU has very few faculty-led programs, but students can participate in programs from other universities and transfer the credit back to NMSU,” Oretskin said. “George Mason University offers a number of faculty led programs all over the world that NMSU students can take advantage of.”

The Israel and Palestine program is expensive, but Oretskin said the price includes airfare, housing and traveling expenses, including a three-day trip to Jordan.

“The program is complicated and time-consuming, but if a student is interested in learning about world issues for themselves, they have an obligation to do so,” Oretskin said.

For more information call (575) 646-1093.

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