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Science & Tech

Training Engineers, at Home and Abroad

New study abroad program for ENG students in Tel Aviv

ENG sophomores David Scaduto (from left), Erin Allen, and Aaron Seaman take a break from their studies at Tel Aviv University. Photos courtesy of Erin Allen

In the past, College of Engineering students could rarely study overseas because they wouldn’t be able to take their core courses. But with the addition this semester of a program in Tel Aviv, Israel, BU now offers engineering students three study abroad programs — helping them stay competitive in a global engineering economy.

“I’m a manufacturing engineer,” says Erin Allen (ENG’09), who is studying in the inaugural Tel Aviv program, “and the resources to tour and shadow here are amazing — our ECT teacher owns his own cell phone company! Plus, with all the pressures of outsourcing, I personally felt like it was necessary to start learning other cultures on a firsthand basis.”

A semester abroad is especially important for engineers in today’s global environment, according to Solomon Eisenberg, an ENG professor and associate dean of undergraduate programs. International experience will help students whose future jobs may involve global teams, he says. BU’s Office of International Programs also offers engineering programs in Dresden, Germany, and Guadalajara, Mexico. The decision to expand into Israel seemed like a natural choice.

“For a country its size, Israel has an enormous impact on technology in the world,” Eisenberg says. “Most high-tech firms have a presence in the Tel Aviv–Haifa area. We’re also aware that students are looking for programs in Israel.”

ENG sophomores David Scaduto
and Anna Yanko study a map
near Jerusalem’s old city.

The program in Tel Aviv offers students the same core courses that second-semester sophomores take in Boston, in addition to a language and cultural component. The program is limited to second-semester sophomores; after that engineering students start taking courses in their majors, and it would be harder for the college to offer all the courses necessary.

“Engineering is a very structured curriculum,” says Eisenberg. Students stay on track with their core courses by taking the same ones in each country: differential equations, circuit theory, and modern physics or biology, as well as a social science course on the country’s history and culture. All courses are taught in English, in part because engineers often don’t have the time at BU to study a foreign language. They do take an intensive course in the local language.

“I used to take Hebrew a long time ago, and when I came here I was at the bottom level,” says Anna Yanko (ENG’09), one of those now studying in Tel Aviv. “Now I can more or less explain myself on the street and even do a bit of bargaining.”

While safety might be a concern among friends and family in the United States, such concerns are not keeping the students in their dorm rooms. Yanko has been skiing on Mt. Hermon, hiking in the desert, exploring Jerusalem, and planning a trip to the southernmost city of Eliat.

“Israel is not at all what it is portrayed in the news,” she says. “I have not once felt unsure about my safety. Granted, there are security checks before you enter most places, but it is really not that big of a deal.”

Catherine Santore can be reached at csantore@bu.edu.