Students can visit 'Startup Nation' over spring break

Sean Yoder
October 23, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “Dissatisfied nation” was the phrase used by Israel’s former president Shimon Peres to convey the country’s proclivity for persistence and innovation.

Itself a sort of geopolitical startup, Israel is now home to thousands of startups and boasts some of the highest numbers of scientists and researchers per capita in the world.

Penn State students have the opportunity to see firsthand why Israel has been often called “Startup Nation” during a spring break trip in 2019.

Enrollment for the trip and the connected ENGR 310 class is limited to 15 students who will get to travel to places such as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, the Negev and Haifa. There will be scheduled visits to startups, innovation labs and accelerators, and tours to historic sites, all while meeting founders, venture capitalists and policymakers.

Interested students can attend an information meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in 24 Carnegie building at University Park, where pizza will be served. Students also can contact Anne Hoag at for more information.

The estimated cost for students will be about $3,500, which includes airfare, lodging, ground transportation, breakfasts, and fees for tours and museums. Students are responsible for their other meals, recreation, shopping and mobile phone services. Scholarships are available to help with cost. The deadline to apply is Nov. 8. ENGR 310 has no prerequisites.

Hoag, who is the director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Minor and associate professor of communications, said the first trip to Israel last year was inspired by her own time abroad as a 16-year-old in France.

“The exchange student experience changed my life,” she said. “I’ve been eager to help other people experience other cultures ever since.”

Hoag said she noticed many students have neither the time nor the money to study abroad for extended periods. While a spring break week abroad doesn’t provide the kind of immersion in a culture that usually happens during year- or semester-long experiences, trips such as these serve to provide at least some kind of international experience.

She said there’s no better place than Israel to get a sense of the spirit of entrepreneurship.

“I wanted to show students how entrepreneurship and leadership are mindsets, not necessarily skills,” she said. “If you can see it in the setting of a culture you can see how a mindset is kind of driven by a culture, not necessarily by something you read in a book or a skill you learn and practice. I chose Israel because it really is the startup nation.”

Israel has drawn comparisons to Silicon Valley for its research and development and the founding of startup businesses in technology, science, medicine, agriculture and other industries. The World Bank reported in 2015 that Israel sits at the top of the list of countries in terms of expenditures on research and development by gross domestic product with 4.27 percent, far outpacing the U.S. percentage of 2.79. Though the country has a population and landmass comparable to that of New Jersey, it became the eighth nation state in the world with space launch capability. A 2010 report from the country’s diplomatic Trade & Economic Mission boasted the highest rate of scientists and technicians per 10,000 workers with 140, besting second-place U.S. with 83. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data showed it also was No. 1 in medical device patents per capita and No. 5 in number of overall patents per capita.

Tiffany Zoe, a senior agribusiness management student who is in the ENTI minor, was enthusiastically recruiting students for the trip at the Education Abroad Fair in the HUB-Robeson Center on Oct. 17. She went to Israel with Hoag and a group of students this past spring.

For Zoe, a longer semester trip abroad would have prevented her from graduating in a timely manner. With Israel already on her list of dream places to visit, the opportunity couldn’t have been better to drop in on a culture that doesn’t accept “no” for an answer.

“When someone tells you ‘no,’ either make them say yes or go find your yes,” she said. “‘No’ was what a lot of Israeli entrepreneurs were told.”

Zoe said the welcoming culture and diverse geography made for a fun — if somewhat fast-paced — trip abroad.

“Ten years from now, do you want to look back at your college experience and say that it was mediocre, or do you want to say that you built some great memories that shaped you into what you are today?”

Click here for a video from the March 2018 trip shot and edited by student Ben Cutler.

The Intercollege Minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ENTI) is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

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Last Updated October 24, 2018