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Middle Eastern Immersion

This aspiring "world-improvement strategist" hopes that studying in Israel will help her gain a more in-depth perspective on Middle East conflicts and allow her to improve her Arabic.

People  |  Jun 13, 2018  |  By Liz Arias
portrait of woman

UNLV student Zantana Ephrem will spend an entire academic year studying at the University of Haifa, thanks to a Boren Scholarship.

Zantana Ephrem, a UNLV economics and philosophy double major with a minor in Brookings public policy, was recently awarded a $20,000 Boren Scholarship through the Department of Defense for her yearlong study abroad term in Haifa, Israel. UNLV’s study abroad partnership with the University of Haifa offers the opportunity to study in one of Israel’s foremost centers of high tech research and industry. With the help of the Boren Scholarship, Ephrem will be able to delve into her passions of international relations and language acquisition, all while taking in a view of the Mediterranean.

Where will you be studying and for how long?

I will be studying in Haifa, Israel, for the 2018-19 yearlong term. I will be enrolled in Arabic language and culture courses as well as peace and conflict studies. I’ll be departing in September for personal travels but my program starts mid-October.

Some people might hear "Israel" and have concerns about the safety of studying abroad there. Do you hold these concerns?

I think safety and security is a topic to be considered no matter the destination, and one should always aim to be an informed and thoughtful traveler. While making my decision, I reviewed the Department of State’s travel advisories for Israel and am well-versed on the advisory levels within the country. The area I will be in has no advanced travel advisory so I feel comfortable with my decision to study there. Further, the study abroad program includes international health insurance so I know I’m covered healthwise. Finally, the office of international programs and USAC (University Studies Abroad Corsortium) are both essential parts of this process and serve as support lines if I ever needed them. With staff at the host university and at home to support me, I know I’m not doing this on my own and that puts me at ease.

What motivated you to apply for Boren? How does it relate to your career goals?

I like to say I’m an aspiring world-improvement strategist. The experiences I hope to acquire as a Boren Scholar will equip me with skills necessary to solve complex, global problems. I’ve always been interested in a career in international relations and international law, so I was motivated to apply for Boren because of their record in shaping the next generation of world-influencers.

You mention wanting to solve complex global problems. What one problem would you most like to solve?

I would most like to have a hand in finding solutions to human rights violations and injustices that happen worldwide — from the status of refugees, to freedom of speech infringements, to poverty and hunger.

What is one of the things you are most looking forward to about studying in Israel?

One of the things I’m most looking forward to is learning about the various conflicts in the Middle East from within the region. I’ve read quite a bit about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iran-Israel proxy conflict, the Syrian Civil War, the Yemeni Civil War, etc., but I can only learn so much while being far removed so I’m looking forward to studying these topics while in closer proximity. I’m also really looking forward to experiencing Israel from beyond just the tourist perspective. I’ve never stayed in another country long enough to truly immerse myself in the culture, so I’m excited to observe and take part in the local Israeli experience.

What is one major goal you look forward to accomplishing while in Israel?

A major goal I hope to accomplish is to advance my Arabic language skills. Polyglots say that the best way to learn a language is to live in a place where it’s spoken, so I truly want to take advantage of my time there and learn as much Arabic as I can.

Why did you choose UNLV for your studies?

I chose UNLV because I was drawn to the diversity and uniqueness of almost every facet of the university. I’m also big on the ability to craft my own future and education so I liked the amount of freedom the curriculum and professors at UNLV allow, while at the same time making sure to gear us toward a bright future. Here at UNLV, I’m on track for summa cum laude distinction in the Honors College, I’m a McNair Institute Scholar where I’m doing paid summer research, I’m the executive director of The House: Economics Hub, and I spent the past year as an ambassador for the Lee Business School. I am also currently CEO of Effective Altruism Las Vegas and am interning for the energy sector subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

What's your advice for other students considering study abroad options?

I would advise them to start early, to look for as many scholarships as they can, and to not get discouraged if the goal of studying abroad seems daunting. It’s totally worth it and UNLV offers many resources to offer guidance through the planning process.

About the office of international programs

The office of international programs offers students of any major the opportunity to earn credit in 51 different cities around the world with terms ranging from three weeks to a full academic year. They also offer guidance to both undergraduate and graduate students on how to pursue nationally competitive scholarships such as those through Boren, Fulbright, Gilman, and a host of other prestigious scholarships.

The Boren Awards are initiatives through the National Security Education Program that provide unique funding opportunities for U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad. These regions include Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The program focuses on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security. It draws on a broad definition of national security, recognizing that the scope of national security has expanded to include not only the traditional concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, but also the challenges of global society, including sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness.

To learn more about study abroad or the Boren Awards, contact international programs at 702-895-3896.