In ‘EU4Youth’ students learn about study and exchange opportunities

Birzeit University students were introduced to numerous study and exchange opportunities at European universities under the Erasmus Plus program in an information session organized by the university, the European Delegation in Palestine, and the National Erasmus+ Office in Palestine on Thursday, February 21, 2019.

The event featured booths where representatives of the British Council, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, Institut Français, and the Representative Office of Ireland in Palestine offered information about the participating European universities and their offerings under the exchange program to interested students.

Amir Khalil, the external academic relations officer at Birzeit University, encouraged the students in attendance to apply for the Erasmus Plus exchange program, noting that the university has a record number of agreements with European institutions of higher education. An Erasmus Plus alumnus himself, Khalil hailed the experience of studying abroad as eye-opening and emphasized the unique perspective and interpersonal skills that such exchange opportunities offer.

Alessandra Viezzer, head of cooperation in the European Union Delegation to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reviewed her experience as an Erasmus-plus exchange student when she moved from her hometown in Italy to London for an exchange semester.

“The experience is truly life-changing,” Viezzer said, referring to the Erasmus Plus program. “I am convinced that I wouldn’t be here, doing what I love best, had I not taken this exchange semester 30 years ago.” She added that the program allows students to experience new cultures, meet new people, and build better interpersonal and communication skills.

Nedal Jayousi, director of the National Erasmus+ Office in Palestine, discussed the office’s efforts to offer exchange opportunities to Palestinian students and highlighted the ever-increasing list of partner universities in Europe. Jayousi stressed the experiential nature of education under the Erasmus Plus exchange program where students gain a global perspective and build life-long professional and academic networks.

Three Erasmus-Plus alumni shared their experiences with the attending students, including oddities and peculiarities they found abroad, which ranged from the initial application and selection process to class registration and cultural experiences.

Before the information session, a team comprised of director of the British Council in Palestine Martin Daltry, Viezzer, and Jayousi had met with Henry Giacaman, vice president for academic affairs at Birzeit University, and Khalil to discuss channels of international cooperation with the university.

Giacaman gave a brief overview of Birzeit University’s history and outlined the academic offerings that − across nine faculties − include 111 programs leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees and one program leading to a Ph.D. in social sciences.

Giacaman also emphasized the positive academic impact of exchange programs on Birzeit University students who return to Palestine with increased academic vigor and renewed enthusiasm for developing and improving the educational process.

Khalil highlighted the university’s internationalization and its cooperation efforts with European and international partner universities, saying that “Over 130 local and international students benefit annually from exchange programs at Birzeit University.”

Khalil also discussed entry restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation on international students and professors, explaining that in the past semesters, some courses had to be shortened to accommodate students who had been issued only a three-month tourist visa by the Israeli authorities.