Undergraduate students go international with Israel immersion
Startups, holy cities, and camel rides.
The Gabelli School’s first global immersion to Israel included all of these aspects and more. The hybrid in-class and online course introduced 19 students to management and marketing practices across startup, national, and international organizations within Israel. Then, over 10 days in January, led by Julita Haber, clinical assistant professor, and Hanaa Fawzy, assistant dean of global partnership and initiatives, the group visited local and international firms, attended lectures with Israeli management professors, and toured holy cities including Jerusalem, Galilee, and Haifa.
Below, Suzanne Hartman and James Spadafora, both BS ’20, and Shravan Wadhwa, BS ’19, share reflections on their experience.
Why did you choose to take this course?
Suzanne Hartman: I did so primarily because it fit into my major requirements and because it was an opportunity to travel to such an interesting country of which I knew little. However, I never knew that signing up for this course would gift me with so much knowledge, life experience, and inspiration.
James Spadafora: I studied abroad at the London Centre last spring and fell in love with international travel. It was my first time out of the country, and through my European trips I realized there is so much across the world to learn that can directly correlate to your classroom learning, whether you’re a business, history, or political science major.
What is something that surprised you about the country?
Shravan Wadhwa: The country is so much more diverse than I imagined, in all dimensions. It has different people from various backgrounds from all over the world. You can enter a restaurant in Haifa and find people speaking in Hebrew, English, and Arabic all at the same place! In terms of terrain, there are mountains, coastlines with beaches, and deserts.
JS: How open and quick people are to comment on basically anything! We got to meet with students from Netanya College and visited Israeli families while we were there. I found them to be so open to our questions. This transparency and openness is what makes Israeli businesses operate so quickly and efficiently.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
SH: My absolute favorite part was the Shabbat dinner. On our first day in Israel we were put into groups of two and were welcomed into the homes of local Israeli families for Friday night Shabbat dinner. This dinner, including the conversations I had with my host family, is something I will never forget. We seemed to never run out of things to talk about, comparing and contrasting our lives and exchanging wonderful stories.
SW: On our second-to-last day, our group traveled to Masada and the Dead Sea. It was such an action-packed day. At 7 a.m. I was enjoying a big Israeli breakfast buffet, followed by a quick 1,500-foot trek up an ancient fortress, and then we ended the day by riding camels and floating on the lowest point on earth: the Dead Sea.
How do you think this experience will help you in your future career?
SW: This experience gave me a whole new perspective on life in general. I learned that there is no one path to success from all the guest lecturers and Israeli startups. I learned a lot about how diversity can play a huge role in a company’s performance and financial results. Lastly, I learned about the hurdles that Israel faces as a result of tension that it has with many of its bordering countries.
SH: Business practice in Israel has some very specific contrasts to business practice in America—many of them due to society, history, and geography. Observing this successful nation with an open mind enabled me to gain insights that will stay with me and inspire me throughout my own career.
What would you say to someone considering going on this study tour?
SH: I would highly encourage anyone who has a passion for international business and travel or anyone who is willing to experience new things to go on this study tour. We were given so many amazing opportunities to connect with each other and the Israeli people. We traveled to so many unique places where we were encouraged to learn and our curiosity was celebrated.
SW: I would tell them to not think much and 100 percent to go for it. The professor is so passionate, it’s the best way to start the year, and you’ll make memories for a lifetime. Looking back, I can say that this was one of the best decisions I made.