Arni Thorsteinson Study Exchange Program to Israel celebrates eleventh year
Thanks to the generous donation from the Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman Foundation, 18 Asper students and 8 students from Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Beersheva, Israel were able to participate in the life-changing Arni Thorsteinson Study Exchange Program (ATSEP) to Israel in May.
Over 11 years, the program has introduced nearly 200 Asper students to Israel. Without this opportunity, many students would not have the knowledge of the complexities of Israel politics, culture and business practices.
“If I had not been part of this program, I would never have had the opportunity to meet, learn from, and grow with these amazing students,” says Asper student and ATSEP participant Paige Small.
This year, the program’s theme was connection. Connection is integral to the program and especially noteworthy in 2019. The launch of the formal alumni network in Winnipeg and Israel in the fall of 2018 helped cement the notion of connection and community among the different years of cohorts.
The program kicked off with ten days spent in Winnipeg. Asper students greeted the BGU students at the airport just before midnight on May 5. In Winnipeg, students attended classes on Sustainability Management in International Business, co-taught by Asper’s Bruno Silvestre and BGU’s Uriel Haran. Participants also visited St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation and New Flyer Industries, in addition to showing the Israeli students around destinations like the Forks. A weekend retreat at a cabin on Clear Lake, where they cooked group meals and went on a sunset wildlife safari was another program highlight
Before the group left Winnipeg, they were able to meet up with 30 Asper alumni from the program, where they participated in a program pub trivia quiz.
“It was so wonderful to see so many past participants take time out of their busy schedules to meet with the newest students, and to share their memories and experiences of the program,” says program coordinator Amber Pohl.
Students then left for Toronto on May 15. They enjoyed a presentation on ONEX operations by David Mansell, followed by an in-depth presentation on Israel by Jewish educator Richard Bass. Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman Foundation President Lori Shapiro also engaged the group in a thoughtful discussion on the current political situation.
Kyle Chatterton, program alumnus invited a few Toronto alumni to come by for an after work drink and to meet the newest ATSEP cohort during their visit.
Students then jetted off on an overnight flight to Beersheva, Israel. After checking into the Ottoman House, a local guesthouse managed by program alumnus and Israeli alumni ambassador Auren Renford, the group enjoyed some time on the beautiful rooftop patio and an early night in preparation for the week ahead.
Students spent an afternoon visiting SodaStream, learning about the Israeli company’s sustainability initiatives. That night was a wonderful alumni reunion hosted at the Ottoman House by Auren, as approximately 15 past BGU participants gathered together to share memories and to meet the latest cohort.
May 28 was another highlight for the group, as they listened to Haaretz journalist Amos Harel describe the current geopolitical situation in Israel. Once they left, it was a race back to Beersheva for the final exam.
After they finished the exam, students were rewarded by attending BGU’s Student Fest. Asper students accompanied their BGU friends to huge parties and concerts on campus, including Israeli pop star Omer Adam, and spent the following day at the BGU Student Fest pool party.
Before they left, the group then gathered for one final farewell dinner before leaving for the airport. Speeches were given, joke certificates presented and many tears shed. It was a fittingly emotional and touching end to such a life altering experience.
Asper student and ATSEP participant Atlin Reichardt reflects on the program: “Each day was a new adventure that was exciting and brought forth special learning opportunities. I gained so much knowledge from the historical locations we visited to the insightful classroom conversations we all engaged in”.