Foreign students' experience during a time of war

Annetta M. Madsen, Rachel Pope, Ayol Samuels, Carmi Z. Margolis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Due to the war in Gaza in 2009, Ben-Gurion University's Medical School for International Health with a student body of 165 international multicultural students canceled a week of classes. Third-year students continued clerkships voluntarily and fourth-year students returned to Israel before departing for electives in a developing country. A debriefing session was held for the entire school. Objectives: To assess the academic and psychological effects of political conflict on students. Methods: We asked all students to fill out an anonymous Google electronic survey describing their experience during the war and evaluating the debriefing. A team of students and administrators reviewed the responses. Results: Sixty-six students (40% of the school) responded (first year 26%, second year 39%, third year 24%, fourth year 8%, taking time off 3%, age 23-40 years old). Eighty-three percent were in Israel for some portion of the war and 34% attended the debriefing. Factors that influenced individuals' decision to return/stay in the war zone were primarily of an academic and financial nature. Other factors included family pressure, information from peers and information from the administration. Many reported psychological difficulties during the war rather than physical danger, describing it as "draining" and that it was difficult to concentrate while studying. As foreigners, many felt their role was undefined. Although there is wide variation in the war's effect on daily activities and emotional well-being during that time, the majority (73%) reported minimal residual effects. Conclusions: This study lends insight to the way students cope during conflict and highlights academic issues during a war. Open and frequent communication and emphasis on the school as a community were most important to students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-147
Number of pages5
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013


  • Conflict
  • International health
  • Medical education
  • War

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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