Like many educators, Yasmine Kalkstein, an associate professor of Psychology at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, is spending her sabbatical immersed in research.
But instead of hitting the books at home, Kalkstein is carrying out her work in Israel.
Kalkstein recently received a Fulbright Senior Scholar grant from the U.S. State Department. The grant sponsors her ongoing research into women’s medical decision-making regarding childbirth, including delivery methods and breastfeeding options. It’s a topic she’s been exploring for years, often alongside her Mount students through the college’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience.
Kalkstein has been working with Tayla Miron-Shatz, director of the Center for Medical Decision Making at Ono Academic College in Israel, on several projects since meeting her in 2013. She’s dreamed of a chance to work with Miron-Shatz in person, and the Fulbright grant was just what she needed to make that collaboration a reality.
So in the fall of 2017, Kalkstein and her husband rented out their home in Monroe, packed up their two young children, and moved nearly 6,000 miles away to Rehovot, Israel.
“This has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” the Psychology professor explained. “As a Jewish person, I’m in my homeland with my people, so there’s a meaningful emotional and historical connection.”
Navigating the divide between tourist and a citizen, coupled with raising a family in a foreign country, has presented plenty of cultural learning opportunities, she said.
Some differences include using a phone app instead a meter to pay for parking, having a one-day weekend, and learning a different social paradigm. For example, in Israel, “People don’t hesitate to give their opinion, but also invite you into their life,” she said.
Even though Kalkstein has visited the country before, living there offers a new set of challenges. Grocery shopping, buying car insurance, and other everyday activities proved difficult at first due to language and cultural differences.
“I’m experiencing what it means to be an immigrant,” she said. “What it means to try to put your kids into a school system in a foreign language with different cultural norms, what it feels like to want to do everything you can to fit in and yet struggling to always figure out the nuances…this is what living in another country is like. But I love it, because I love being an explorer.”
Kalkstein will return to the United States and resume her classes at the Mount in Fall 2018 semester.
Mount Saint Mary College, is ranked a Top-Tier Regional University by U.S. News & World Report offers bachelor’s and master’s degree programs preparing students for careers in healthcare, business, education, social services, communication/media and more.