Crossing the globe for class credit

The Archaeology of Israel study abroad program is currently looking for students to participate in the next annual summer trip to Israel.

Directed by Richard Stamps, associate professor of anthropology, and Michael Pytlik, director of OU’s Judaic Studies Program, the program has been taking students to the same dig site in Israel since 2009 to teach them about the archaeology, history and culture of the country.

Students must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and must be enrolled at Oakland University in order to participate. There is no major requirement.

“We’re looking for energetic students who might not become archaeologists but want to know about the history and the world and see Israel from a unique perspective,” Pytlik said. “It’s a world-widening experience for everybody.”

Each trip lasts for around three and a half weeks, according to Pytlik, and requires a significant amount of work.

“We’ve been digging up for the last five years stuff from 1,000 BC that’s associated with King David and the Bible,” Pytlik said. 

Oakland will be moving to a new biblical site this summer, according to Pytlik.


Beyond the classroom

Pytlik said the program tries to cover 50 to 60 percent of the cost for each student through grants and donors, making it not only a great experience but an affordable one.

“We want to make sure the funds that we have make a difference,” Pytlik said.

So far they have done that and more.

Courtney Ponka, a fifth year history and anthropology major with a focus in archaeology, was one of the students who made the trip last summer.

She had heard about the program in one of her classes and thought it would be a good opportunity to expand herself and her resume.

“The overall experience was so much more than I ever expected,” Ponka said. “I learned things that would have been impossible to be taught in a classroom.”

It took a lot of work, she said, but it left her with “an extraordinary experience” that she will carry with her for the rest of her life.

“After going to school for so long, you can kind of lose sight as to why exactly you’re doing this, or what it was that you wanted in the first place,” Ponka said. “Being there reminded me and cemented my resolve for getting my degree; it made me excited again.”


 A unique perspective

The trip consists of more than just digging, according to Pytlik.

Students and faculty also visit various religious and historical sites, going beyond just “tourist sites,” according to Pytlik.

Students have gone swimming in the Dead Sea, hiked Mount Olive and mixed with other students and people from all around the world.

There will be a course offered in the winter 2014 semester that will teach students about archaeology and the history of Israel. It will be taught by Pytlik.

The course is not required to participate in the study abroad program, but Pytlik said he recommends that interested students take it.

Students who wish to join the program must apply by the end of the year and will be chosen by mid-January, according to Pytlik.

So long as they can increase the funding, Pytlik said he hopes they can increase the number of participating students this year.

“Everybody whose come back has been changed for the positive,” Pytlik said. “Even if they’re a little sore when we get home.”

Learn more about the program and courses offered by emailing [email protected].