Gburg Abroad, Part 1: Kelsey Chapman '15 studies the historical complexity of Israel

More than half of Gettysburg students spend at least one semester studying off-campus. In 2013, the Institute of International Education recognized this commitment to engaged learning when it ranked the College 5th in the nation among baccalaureate institutions for mid-length (one semester) duration study abroad. Over the past 10 years, Gettysburg has been ranked within the top 20 institutions in this same category.

Last year, 346 Gettysburg students studied abroad in 33 countries—including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Morocco, the Netherlands, Argentina, Ghana, and Greece. In this five-part series, five students share their off-campus studies stories, and how these experiences have helped to alter their perceptions and reshape their goals as they plan for their lives on campus and beyond.

Dome of the Rock

Kelsey Chapman ’15
Economics major, Middle East and Islamic Studies minor
Hebrew University of Jerusalem: Jerusalem, Israel

I chose to study in Israel because I'm a Middle East and Islamic Studies minor, and felt that I didn't know enough about the country. Israel is in the news so often, and I knew that living there for a semester would be an invaluable experience that would give me a more nuanced and informed perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Besides that, I wanted to study abroad in Israel to learn about all of the aspects of the country that have nothing to do with the conflict.

On her coursework:
I took a class called Issues in Israeli Society, in which I learned about tensions between Orthodox and Secular Jews, and those between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. These tensions are so important for understanding the country’s dynamics. We also discussed the effects of compulsory military service on society, women's issues in Judaism, and the status of Arab citizens of Israel.

On the experience:
Kelsey Chapman '15While abroad, I had the opportunity to speak to and befriend IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers, Israeli settlers in the West Bank, peace activists, and people living along the Gaza Strip. I visited many Kibbutzim along the Gaza Strip during the semester—the same communities that you hear about in the news. It's terrifying and incredibly surreal to think about how dangerous those places are now.

I've been in touch with one friend who lives along the Strip. I'll never forget looking out from his back porch and seeing Gaza up close for the first time. I could see homes very clearly, the Mediterranean Sea in the background, and a huge pile of trash (Gaza waste management is awful). My friend says he and his family are fine for now, but the sad reality is that this is nothing new for him.

On coming home:
It breaks my heart to watch the news, and I constantly find myself at odds with people on both sides. Honestly, the terms Pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian seem counterproductive to me now. It tears me apart to know that Israelis have to live under fear of Hamas attacks, and that my friends in the IDF reserves might be called upon to risk their lives again. It also devastates me knowing how many innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza are suffering and dying from the daily barrage of attacks between Israel and Hamas.

I’m the house leader for the Middle East and Islamic Studies (MEIS) House, and when I come back to Gettysburg, I hope that Hillel House and MEIS House can start some dialogue on the conflict.

Follow our five-part series on off-campus studies experiences to learn about a student athlete who earned two scholarships to study in Japan, a psychology student who chose a Washington, D.C., program to gain experience in nonprofit work, a sophomore’s participation in an elite classical studies program in Rome, and a student who spent a year tracing immigration and culture from the Maghreb into France.


Global Initiatives
Develop citizens able to contribute and lead in a global society.


Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Christine Shanaberger, associate director of communications/coordinator of presidential communications 717.337.6806

Posted: Fri, 15 Aug 2014

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