Israel is creating global citizens. Here is how - opinion

To take full advantage of this diversity, students need to be equipped with multicultural collaborative skills.

Tel Aviv University. (photo credit: SHLOMI AMSALEM)
Tel Aviv University.
(photo credit: SHLOMI AMSALEM)

Over the past fifteen years, experts in higher education have come to the realization that universities have a responsibility to equip their students with the tools necessary to work and live in a global context. When students acquire intercultural skills, they feel at ease working and associating with people from different cultures and countries and can take advantage of the kind of creativity that happens when people from different cultures work with one another.

A Tel Aviv University colleague in the chemistry department tells me that when her lab consists exclusively of Israeli students, they will get their work done. But if the Israeli students are joined in the lab by a German student, a Brazilian student, and an Indian student, sparks fly, and real creativity ensues. Each student brings to the lab or classroom a different cultural and academic world. To take full advantage of this diversity, students need to be equipped with multicultural collaborative skills.

But, post-Corona, there is an increasing recognition that the importance of the global toolbox goes beyond the personal success of our students. It has become increasingly evident that people around the world are interconnected in every aspect of their lives. While the COVID-19 crisis, with its lockdowns, travel bans, and closures, caused greater isolation, it also caused an increased understanding of issues and difficulties common to people around the world by virtue of our shared vulnerability and precarity. The pandemic has shown that no nation can cure the crisis on its own. 

TAUi will be hosting a live webinar, on November 14 at 4:30 p.m. IST, where you can hear from leaders in academia, bio-tech and international diplomacy and learn how you, too, can become a member of the global community. Click here to register.

In that sense, international education is becoming even more critical because these connections will become more significant in the world in the coming years. It is for these reasons that Tel Aviv University places a great emphasis on providing both Israeli and international students the opportunities for global education, interaction, and a diverse cultural and linguistic perspective.  

How does one provide an international toolbox for students today? For many years, this was commonly accomplished by having Israeli students study abroad for a semester and bringing students from their home countries to Tel Aviv. This method, while still important, is limited to those who have the financial ability to study abroad. Many Israeli students are working during their studies and cannot take time off to study in other countries. But there are other ways to bring an international flavor to campus without traveling abroad. One way is to introduce internationally minded curriculum content that can broaden students’ horizons. Another way – which is perhaps one of the few positive byproducts of corona – is connecting with international students worldwide by combining classrooms through digital platforms. Over the past year, at Tel Aviv University, we issued a call to our teachers to suggest ways to provide this type of international classroom experience. 

We are now conducting several exciting projects in collaboration with universities outside Israel that demonstrate this potential. We offer a class in social work that focuses on refugees and asylum seekers both in Israel and in Germany. The virtual Zoom classroom combines Israeli and German students who are thinking about similar problems in different contexts. Another class focuses on discussing and solving chronic conditions of water shortages in Israel and California, which is conducted virtually with students in both countries.  

Ultimately, though, at Tel Aviv University, the most important mechanism for creating a global toolbox and fostering global citizenship, is by bringing students from around the world to Tel Aviv and integrating them within our classes together with Israeli students. We are working hard at diversifying our international student body and at creating learning and social experiences for Israeli and international students to experience together. 

These collective experiences can also address the question that is frequently asked post-Corona – why would students want to come to campus when they have gotten used to studying online? The creation of an international hub at our campus enables students to have meaningful interactions with students from around the world. This is part of the campus experience that cannot be supplanted by online teaching.

Tel Aviv University is committed to fostering the next generation of global citizens, both in Israel and abroad, that can work together to ensure the common good in the years to come.   

Professor Milette Shamir is Vice President for International Collaboration at Tel Aviv University.

TAUi will be hosting a live webinar, on November 14 at 4:30 p.m. IST, where you can hear from leaders in academia, bio-tech and international diplomacy and learn how you, too, can become a member of the global community. Click here to register.