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Background on Dartmouth and Israel

Hebrew U.jpgAn alumnus writes in about Dartmouth’s cooperation with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem:

I was reading Friday’s post on the proposed exchange program between Hebrew University and Dartmouth College, and thought I could provide some color on the curriculum.

I spent the summer after my freshman year taking classes at the Rothberg School with three other Dartmouth students in a self-created study abroad. I loved the program and would recommend it to any student studying Hebrew language. That said, our own abroad term could have greatly benefited from the addition of a Dartmouth professor and the support of the College.

As a freshman, I was surprised to learn that no educational opportunities were presented as official courses of study in Israel. Given the potential array of offerings Israel has the ability to provide, it stands as especially odd that not even one official program exists. The cultural, historical, and political milieu in which Israeli universities are situated make them prime candidates for partnerships with Dartmouth. The exclusion of Israel in the official docket of programs is peculiar, to say the least.

So, a small group of freshman studying Hebrew took it upon themselves to build out their own abroad term. While the Hebrew Department was supportive (with special thanks to Professor Lewis Glinert), we were still forced into dealing with the incompetence of a bloated administration and a plethora of registration details. Given the costly charges that now apply to all transfer credits, I can hardly see any students following in our footsteps. Further, the College did not accept any of our credits earned as true grades, and we only received Pass/Fail letters on our transcripts. As is obvious, intellectual and academic motivation can be seriously degraded when students only need to “pass a class.” Then, because we received two credits for our time in Israel, we were counted as having been “on” for a summer term at Dartmouth. For me, this added another layer of frustration as I had difficulty rearranging my D-Plan and was again coerced into dealing with the Registrar.

However, putting the administrative difficulties aside, I will say the program was outstanding. The language course at the Rothberg School follows an intensive “Ulpan” format. Students study from Hebrew from early morning to mid-afternoon six days a week. (I believe the exact time frame is 8:00 am to 2:00 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 8:00 am to 11:00 am on Fridays.) All participants are taught in Hebrew, tested weekly, and attend trips to historical sites around Jerusalem. The six week program engages students on a consistent basis and allows for an extremely fast rate of growth. As the course only lasts six weeks, the program is perfectly positioned to have a Dartmouth professor add to the experience. The first six weeks could serve to develop the Hebrew language skills of the students, and an additional four weeks could be taught exclusively by a faculty member. This would give students the added benefit of learning from one of the College’s esteemed professors, allowing for official grades to be sanctioned, and provide a stimulating travel itinerary for participants.

I cannot fathom why this program does not, and has not, existed.

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