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Photo of group of men and women in Israel on a study abroad program.

Exploring an Ancient World

Friday, January 5, 2024

Media Contact: Sophia Fahleson | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 |

While a typical college course is offered within four walls on campus, study-abroad courses open learning opportunities to experience the world.

In May 2023, 17 students traveled with the Oklahoma State University Ferguson College of Agriculture to Israel for the adventure of a lifetime. The trip was led by agricultural economics professors Eric DeVuyst and Cheryl DeVuyst, who is also head of the agricultural economics department. The pair has been to Israel a handful of times.

“The professors who go on the course with you are so excited to go, and that makes it all the better when they’re excited to share that experience with us,” said Jill Pruitt, plant and soil sciences senior who completed the course.

Before students left for the two week study-abroad course, they attended meetings with the faculty and other students enrolled in the course.

In these meetings, they received assignments and information about the locations they would visit as well as the culture and course expectations. The assignments helped prepare them for their international studies, Eric DeVuyst said.

“Dr. Eric DeVuyst gave us a list of history and scriptural readings that was optional,” said Katie Dillon, agribusiness junior. “I read those in preparation, which was helpful because during study-abroad courses you are seeing something new every day.”

Sometimes students might feel anxious or underprepared when they start to consider a study-abroad course. Studying abroad is a great way for students to travel if they feel hesitant to leave the country for the first time on their own, Eric DeVuyst said.

“Going to Israel had always been a dream of mine,” Dillon said. “Since I was able to take this course with people who have traveled a lot before, specifically the DeVuysts, it helped me to calm my nerves and helped to give me the confidence to travel on my own in the future.”

OSU Global has a team of faculty that stays up to date on news happening in the country, Eric DeVuyst said.

The Ferguson College of Agriculture offers several study-abroad courses for students to choose from. The cost of a course is a big factor students have to consider, Eric DeVuyst said.

OSU and the Ferguson College of Agriculture provide $850,000 in scholarships annually to students who take study-abroad courses.

“Israel is such an important location to my faith,” Dillon said. “It was really cool it happened to be a study-abroad course that the agricultural economics department was offering.”

The Israel study-abroad course allowed students to merge their passion for agriculture with their religious beliefs, Dillon added.

“We were able to see several religious sites and also see how agriculture operates in a different part of the world,” Pruitt said. “It was like the best of both worlds.”

Studying abroad can provide students with unique opportunities they would not get otherwise.

“It’s an amazing experience to get out of America and see the history of other cultures because where you grow up is so small compared to the rest of the world,” said Boston Hundley, animal science junior, who competed the Israel study-abroad course.

When students study abroad, they get to have a hands-on learning experience, which can be more beneficial than the traditional lecture hall learning environment, Hundley said.

As part of the course, students interacted with their learning environment by visiting a number of places, including the Sea of Galilee, ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, and local farms in Israel. Israel uses advanced irrigation but also practices some of the oldest known agricultural production methods, Eric DeVuyst said.

Israel has small farm communities called kibbutzim, where residents in the area communally tend to the land together, something like what Americans would typically see as a ranch homestead, Dillon said.

“It was really cool to go on the farm tours to see how different agriculture is there because some of the kibbutzim there are organic, which we don’t typically see in Oklahoma,” Dillon said. “I was able to learn about agriculture outside of what we would call conventional agriculture. It was interesting to see how their agriculture is self-sustaining.”

Students also visited another kibbutz facility called BioBee. They talked to employees at the company and learned about their company’s values and why they raise beneficial bees.

“They breed beneficial insects and bees and sell them to people who need those insects to help with the production of their crops,” Pruitt said.

While learning about the rich history of the agricultural industries across Israel, many of the students who went on the study abroad enjoyed the opportunity to “connect the dots with the stories they’ve learned from the Bible,” Dillon said.

“We went to some biblical sites, and our tour guide would walk us through the historical significance and some of the religious significance at each site we visited,” Hundley said.

Students are likely going to become close friends in the course by sharing unique experiences, Dillon said.

“Everyone on the trip got along so well,” Dillon said. “I made a couple of really close friends during the course that I would not have had the chance to meet otherwise.

“It was sweet to bond over our shared beliefs,” she added.

Students who have been in a study-abroad course highly recommend the opportunity, Hundley said.

Participants have the chance to leave their comfort zones and learn from different cultures, Pruitt said.

“The biggest takeaway I learned was that there really is a world outside of the United States, which is obvious, but it was cool to be able to quantify and see that in real life,” Dillon said. “It really made me fall in love with humankind again.”

Story by: Sarah Robertson | Cowboy Journal

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