Israel has become an attractive option for international students interested in studying abroad in recent years. Not only is Israel a country with unrivaled religious, historical, cultural, and political significance, it is also known as The Start Up Nation, with a high-tech culture seconded only by the Silicon Valley. Outside of the variety of study abroad program providers in Israel, the nation also has six internationally recognized universities and several colleges, which all offer opportunities to study (and take many classes in English) for a semester or spend the summer studying in Israel.
Jerusalem is popular for international students studying in Israel and also the country’s top visited city in terms of tourism. The largest city in Israel, Jerusalem is also one of the oldest in the world. Whether it’s referred to as “The Holy City,” or “The City of Gold,” there will be a unique experience filled with the oldest of the old and the newest of the new.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all believe this area to be sacred. Miracles are believed to have taken place here too, but you do not need to be religious to appreciate the city’s beauty. Jerusalem's 220 historic sites include world renowned gems like The Walls of the Old City (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), The Dome of the Rock, and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Located in central Israel, it is about equidistant from the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and just a short distance from Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park, so there is no shortage of natural areas to enjoy.
Tel Aviv, known as The White City, offers undergraduate and graduate level study abroad programs, as well as a fantastic beach, popular night life, and shopping options. It’s home to museums ranging from art, to history, and politics. Tel Aviv allows students to have the full Mediterranean cosmopolitan experience, as well as the opportunity to live in Silicon Wadi, Israeli’s high-tech center.
Haifa is a true microcosm of Israel, with the three main religions living side by side in peaceful coexistence. Haifa is home to some of Israel’s most visited tourist attractions, including the beautiful Baha’i Gardens. The city offers both beautiful beaches and fresh mountain air, so it appeals to a wide range of student interests with options for excursions camping, hiking, and swimming.
Subjects & Courses
Israel’s long history and political development make it an excellent place to study Middle Eastern history and culture, as well as to learn Hebrew and Arabic. Israel is also also an ideal location to study technology. International students studying in Israel will also have the opportunity to learn from the world’s top researchers and have exposure to major advancements as they happen. Opportunities to study medicine, the environment, engineering, and a wide range of subject areas are available for students in Israel.
You do not need to know Hebrew or Arabic prior to studying in Israel, unless your specific program is a language intensive program or has a pre-requisite for language. Luckily, if you are interested in learning, every Israeli university and accredited college offers intensive Hebrew courses alongside the regular academic degree options, and often intensive Arabic courses too, as well as classes on the history, politics, and geography of the region.
The atmosphere on Israeli campuses is informal and friendly. The amount of time spent in classrooms varies by program, but classes usually begin around nine or ten in the morning, and finish around three or four in the afternoon, leaving plenty of time for exploring the area. Most undergraduate and graduate programs in Israel start around the beginning of October, but students who study in Israel for a semester may find more flexibility to join during the middle of the year.
Scholarships & Costs
Arabic is a Critical Language for the United States, which means there are many reasons it would be helpful to have more people fluent in the language; as such, there are several language scholarship programs developed to help students study abroad in Israel, such as the Gilman International Scholarship. Some religious institutions like synagogues and churches also offer scholarships to study abroad in Israel.
Israel is highly developed, and one of the most educated countries in the world. Studying there will be comparable to studying at a mid-range university in the United States in terms of tuition. An intensive summer Hebrew or Arabic class at an accredited Israeli university could cost around $900 USD, and a full year of academic study at either the graduate of undergraduate level may range from $9,000 to $15,000 USD, but can be higher or lower depending on university direct exchange rates.
Whereas basic foods such as fruit and vegetables are reasonably priced in Israel, buying American products can add a significant cost to a student who is living abroad. All university campuses offer subsidized student cafeterias, serving fare including local favorites like falafel and shwarma, as well as Western dishes like pizza and sandwiches. Public transportation is generally readily available close to campuses, whether buses or trains, and reasonably priced. If you are studying abroad with a program provider, housing, excursions, and accommodations may already be included within your program fees.
Accommodations & Visas
You will have the option to live in student dorms on campus, in shared apartments in the city, or homestays, depending on the program you choose. In some cases, dormitories can be an additional expense outside of the program cost or university tuition. Accommodation costs vary wildly, with Tel Aviv and Jerusalem being the most expensive cities for student accommodation.
For the first three months of stay in Israel, American and Canadian students will not need anything more than a tourist visa, which does not require an application, only a stamp at the airport. However, for longer study programs in Israel you will need a student visa. You can apply for a student visa at your nearest Israeli Consulate (find one through GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory). Make sure to check to see the most up-to-date list of documents to bring too.
It is important to note that students cannot work on a student visa while they study in Israel. But international students studying in Israel do have the option to extend their stay by a three month tourist visa at the end of their studies, if they wish to add extra touring to their agenda.
Benefits & Challenges
- Ancient world comes to life. Studying is Israel allows you to learn about the three main monotheistic cultures, and learn ancient texts in the land they were written, whilst grappling with the very modern political conflicts the country and the region face today.
- Take a Tour. With so many sites, and so much history, it is advised that students visiting for the first time try an organized tour–especially for politically sensitive sites or areas.
- Hebrew not required. The majority of people who study in Israel will take classes that are taught in English, unless they are specifically joining a language program of some kind. Plus, many Israelis speak English, so international students will be able to communicate with the locals, therefore understanding Hebrew is not required.