Seventy-eight university students from 11 countries began an eight-day course Monday, which will allow them to qualify as Magen David Adom volunteers across the country. Although MDA runs these courses every couple of months, this one brings the total number of participants this year to 450, making it a record year. Additionally, whereas participants are usually from North America, this time the students, all tourists, also hail from South America, Central Europe and the UK. They are all Jewish, except for two who come from Holland. The 60-hour MDA training course will take place in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Bayit Vegan. Participants will learn CPR, how to deal with head and chest injuries, trauma and mass casualties. In addition to textbook learning, they will be practicing on dolls, both on the street and inside ambulances, and one of the important skills they will learn is backboarding how to slide an injured person onto a stretcher without moving his back. Once trained, each volunteer will ride in an ambulance with a driver. In addition to their MDA-related schedule, the students will learn about Israel and Israeli society through a number of educational and cultural activities, said course director Iris Gazit. They will meet Labor MK Danny Yatom to hear about the current political situation, and have lectures on the meaning of life in Judaism, as well as a day trip to the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi and a visit to Yad Vashem. Once their training is completed, some of the volunteers will remain in Jerusalem, while others will be sent to Ashdod, Bat Yam, Beersheba, Kfar Saba, Haifa, Holon, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon. They will be housed at absorption centers across the country. The MDA training course is subsidized by the Jewish Agency and each student pays only $400 towards the total cost of the stay, including airfare. "These volunteers definitely make a strong contribution to the State of Israel," said Gazit.