When the University of California, Irvine students started studying abroad in Israel last spring, they knew they were in for a bumpy ride.
“It was a very scary and surreal experience, but it was also incredibly satisfying,” says Jia Liu, a UCI graduate student in sociology and the UCI Graduate Student Association.
“I was just so grateful for the opportunity to experience the country for myself and learn a little bit about its people, culture, and history.”
UCI student Jia Zhang says the Israel experience has been a “very important experience” for her as a Jewish American.
She says she is learning about Jewish history, customs, and language.
Liu says she found a sense of belonging among her classmates.
“Israel was such a special place for me as a Jew, a person of color, and a queer Jew.
It was a country where you could just feel that it was an open and welcoming country,” Liu says.
“There was something really special about Israel that I just couldn’t explain.”
In January, Liu returned to the U.S. and enrolled in a semester abroad program with UC Irvine.
She hopes to pursue graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she would study Jewish and ethnic studies.
“My goal is to become a full-fledged Hebrew scholar,” Liu said.
“This is a dream I have for my future.
Israel and its people are a beautiful, beautiful place.
I just can’t wait to see where I’m going to end up.”
Image source UC Irvine students have made it a goal to study abroad in their hometowns before, but this time they plan to stay at UCI rather than stay at home.
The students are taking advantage of the “study abroad visa” program that allows them to study in Israel as long as they have “good standing” in their home country.
They will be allowed to apply for a study abroad visa and travel to Israel as part of their university experience.
The visa program has been around since 2014, but is only available to students who are not a resident of the U, Canada, or the U., S.A. “The study abroad program has not been used as a substitute for university study,” said UCI’s program director, Dr. Laura Lassiter.
“We have found that most UCI students are interested in taking advantage the study abroad opportunity to study for a degree or to obtain graduate degrees abroad, but are reluctant to do so if they have no plans to return home.”