Dr. Nancy Zarse’s study abroad course, “Forensic Psychology an International Context: Israel,” started on TCSPP’s Chicago Campus as any Israel-focused forensic psychology class ought to – 12 weeks of thought-provoking, classroom lectures from FBI agents, Israeli Consulate representatives, and terrorist negotiators. But by the time it ended, forensic psychology master’s student Katrina Crawford and her TCSPP Chicago classmates were able to witness the anxiety of terrorism, trauma, and resilience firsthand–with experiences that included clearing debris and rubble from a playground in Sderot, Israel, knowing a bomb siren could go off at any moment. This small border town in the south Israel region of West Negev has been an ongoing target of Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip since 2001. Volunteering at the Sderot Media Center, meeting high-ranking Israeli terrorism experts, and being fully immersed in a country torn apart by violence left Katrina forever changed. “I was excited to meet such a wide variety of people and to remove the cultural lens through which I viewed Israel and see what Israelis see and learn how terrorism impacts them,” she says.
Organized in cooperation with the Israeli Consulate in accordance with stringent state department security guidelines, the nine-day trip to Israel utilized historic, religious, and crisis center sites such as the one in Sderot to explore the culture and resilience of a country in constant turmoil. At each location students met with trauma experts, terrorism experts, psychologists, and victims to hear varying opinions about the ongoing terrorist attacks in Israel. The TCSPP group also had the opportunity to learn how almost-daily attacks have disrupted the lives of the people of Sderot– leaving psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress Israeli psychologists say is almost impossible to diagnose or treat because the attacks are constantly recurring.
Katrina says the course and the opportunity to explore Israel in a closely protected, study abroad trip gave her a new perspective on terrorism that she will never forget. “It was a culmination of my professional endeavors and my personal view on terrorism that was based on growing up in an active-duty military family,” she explains. The experience also further strengthened her desire to give back to the community and her country. After graduation, her goal is to pursue a career with the military or law enforcement, specifically working with counterterrorism at the federal level.
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