The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Guest Opinion: Studying abroad is valuable, not always dangerous

A general view of Silwan in East Jerusalem, on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (Quique Kierszenbaum/MCT)

For a large majority of University of Iowa students, studying abroad is an important and exciting aspect of the college experience, myself included.

Last year, I expressed my interest of studying abroad in the summer of 2017. The only obstacle that stood in my way was my choice of destination: Israel.

The problem with studying in Israel wasn’t my choice of program but rather, the country. I was planning on going for a Hebrew-Intensive program because the University of Iowa doesn’t offer Hebrew classes. Because Israel had a state department travel warning, I would have to overcome many obstacles to get there. First, I created a safety proposal about how I would stay safely in Israel. Because I had been to Israel the summer before, I knew that even though the news and the State Department framed Israel as a dangerous country, it is not any more so than your typical American city such as New York City. Of course I knew the risks, but I didn’t see a reason, if I took the necessary safety precautions, I wouldn’t be able to study there.

RELATED: Delving into study abroad deaths

I typed up a four-page safety proposal that covered every aspect of the State Department’s safety warning. I had etched out every detail I could to emphasize that I would be safe. I submitted my proposal, and I waited. Two months later, I received my response — No. This rejection of my proposal prompted me to re-evaluate, and in doing so, I saw new paths for exploration that would still get me to my intended destination.

The Study Abroad Office noted that studying abroad in a travel-warning country was “highly discouraged for undergraduates,” and I questioned if this response would have been different if I were a graduate student. The university was hesitant to allow me to travel because I wasn’t going through a “vetted and affiliated program provider.” I found this logic troubling, but I knew that the UI had accepted credits from and had sent students to the University of Haifa before, so I wasn’t dissuaded.

After receiving its response, I initiated a conversation with the director of safety abroad at the UI, Autumn Tallman. She said that there was a third-party provider that offered the same program I was looking at, and this would allow me to go to Israel. From there, it was a quick turnaround from rejection to going to Israel through USAC’s facilitation of Haifa’s Hebrew program.

Despite the obstacles I faced, I had a wonderful time in Haifa learning Hebrew this past summer. The experience allowed me to further my Hebrew-language skills and fall in love with Israeli culture and society in a way I could have only done by being there.

— Yena Zerkel

UI sophomore

RELATED: Further horizons beckon students abroad



More to Discover