For seven Troy University students, a summer study abroad trip provided a
glimpse into the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With Harvard University, Wheaton College and Boston College, Troy University
sends at least five students each summer to the Leon Levy Expedition to
Ashkelon, one of the largest archeological digs in the Middle East.
Ashkelon, Israel lies between Gaza and Tel Aviv and the middle ground proved
too close for comfort when hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis escalated
over the summer. The military action cut the students’ trip short by two weeks.
Dr. Bill Grantham, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and,
himself, a former participant at the excavation, said safety was the primary
concern. “While hostilities are often a part of the scenery in Israel, it is better to
err on the side of caution when student safety is concerned,” he said.
Two students, Ben Conner, a senior from Prattville, and Joel Jackson, a
graduate student from Millbrook, serve on staff for the expedition. “In some
cases we had just 15 seconds to take shelter from a rocket attack coming from
Gaza,” Jackson said. “It could get intense some times.”
Alanna Cook, a junior psychology major from Grove Hill, kept a blog during her
travels to Israel and expressed the experience of the conflict, from taking shelter
to watching Israel’s “Iron Dome” in action.
July 8 became known as “War Day” for the group, when the Israeli government
closed schools and advised people to stay near shelters. Expedition leaders
decided to follow suit.
“Laryssa [my roommate] heard a boom and looked out the window. She
spotted the rocket just before the sirens sounded, and people started running to
the bunker,” she wrote in her “I Saw the Light” post on “The Adventures of the
Trojan Traveler” blog
“I didn’t. I stood on the balcony and watched. The light kept shining brighter
then dimming off, sometimes allowing me to see the smoke rising or sparks
falling. Other lights shot up into the sky and there were lots of booms. The
moment only lasted two or three minutes, I’m sure, but it felt much longer, and
it was beautiful in a terrifying way. I’ve never seen war, and I hope I never do,
but those rockets are the closest I’ve ever been, and it scared me. Now, I know
there’s nothing to worry about, but the whole situation just serves as one of
those reminders that I am such a small part of such a large world,” she wrote.
Perhaps that’s the key realization for all TROY study abroad programs: Being a
part of a larger world.
Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins often characterizes the internationalization of the
University as an attempt for graduates to “be competitive on a global stage.”
That competitiveness doesn’t come without exposure to different cultures.
In all, 138 students traveled to Costa Rica, Cuba, Spain, London, Paris, China,
Ireland, South Korea, Belgium, Germany and Israel over the summer.
part of ‘larger world’
Ben Conner, a senior
anthropology major from
Prattville, holds the skull of
an ancient dog unearthed by
the Leon Levy Expedition to
Ashkelon. Conner, although
a TROY student, is employed
by Harvard as a site director
at the dig, one of the largest
on-going in Israel.
For the women’s basketball team, an August
trip to Italy was much more than just basketball.
The Trojans spent eight days in Italy, making
stops in Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice,
Montecatini Terme, and Trieste in a once-in-
a-lifetime cultural experience, and went 2-0 in
games in the latter two cities.
“On the basketball court, success hinges a lot
on chemistry,” said sophomore junior college
transfer Caitlyn Ramirez. “I think on our trip to
Italy we built a lot of chemistry on and off the
court. Even though I’m new to the program this
season, our trip to Italy made me feel like I’ve
been around my teammates for years.”
The NCAA allows basketball teams a foreign
tour once every four years, allowing coaches to
get in some playing time, as well as 10 days of
extra practice. While important for a team of
relatively new players, for student-athletes, the
trip offered the added dimension of interaction
with people of different cultures.
Kourtney Coleman, the team’s only four-year
senior, enjoyed the court time, but like her
teammates, gained more than that.
“To be able to go to another country, play two
games and win was one of the best experiences
in my life,” Coleman said. “But off the court,
it was just like being on a family vacation, and
that’s really special.”
Sophomore Kristen Emerson was the only
player on the TROY roster that had previously
visited Italy, enjoyed seeing her teammates
experience the culture.
“It was neat to get to see their facial
expressions when we visited Venice, the
Colosseum and places like that,” Emerson said.
“Because I’ll never forget visiting those places
and it’s cool to see that they’ll never forget
The Trojans’ players and their coaching
staff now hope the 2-0 showing on the court
translates to success on the floor in Trojan
Arena and around the Sun Belt in 2014-15.
WOMEN TRADE COURT
MAESTRI FOR I TALY
By Matt Mayes
Players Ronita Garrett,
left, and Kourtney Coleman
take time for a “selfie” at
Rome’s Colosseum during the
women’s basketball team trip
to Italy in August.