Fall Semester around the Corner, Israel is a Great Option!

Israel offers Alternatives to Compromise for the University Student

 (photo credit: YONIT SCHILLER)
(photo credit: YONIT SCHILLER)
Daily coronavirus headlines continue to carry the surreal phrases that we’ll never quite get used to: “Second Wave,” “Unprecedented impact,” “Whole industries…”.
For millions of American university students and faculty, the entire image of the upcoming academic year is in limbo – and as is becoming uncomfortably clear, no “gut feeling” is going to help guide students to solidifying their plans any time soon. Yes, I know – the semester is a couple of months away.
In an attempt to navigate these unknown waters, most universities have announced plans to hold at least part of their courses online; the exact percent and method will rely on the status of the pandemic and the confidence with which universities can safely invite students to attend in a limited way, within logical and mandated guidelines. Grappling with a general sense of chaotic inconsistency at a state-by-state level, American universities are doing their best … but their options are both uncertain and limited.
The upshot? According to Gabe Silverman, a rising senior at Harvard studying physics, “We students being offered the computer screen instead of the classroom face a dilemma. Do we want to forfeit the face-to-face interaction with professors? Miss out on the social activity of the dorm and campus life? Spend a semester – or a year – sitting at home, trying to focus on studies?” And worse yet, she adds, many will be asked to spend the same astronomical sums on tuition for a period of education that promises to be much less engaging.
But there’s one sector of the student population who is embracing another option.
For those who are looking to incorporate broader, more eye-opening real-world experiences than can be found in the classroom, spending a semester in Israel is an opportunity that has suddenly become much more intriguing. While many may have already spent time in Israel for a “break” on a gap year program, high school summer programs, or on vacation with family, coming to study in a credit-earning university framework offers unique benefits and appeal. “While the gap year experience was my a “breather” before university,” explains Sheli Fouzailoff, a senior studying nutrition at NYU who spent a gap year at Midreshet Lindenbaum, “Spending part of the academic year itself in Israel offers me the final opportunity to experience time abroad before “real life” kicks in with my final years of study, and the demands of settling down with employment and family.”
photo credit: YONIT SCHILLERphoto credit: YONIT SCHILLER
And it’s not just about the opportunity to travel throughout Israel to experience it as an adult, or the rare opportunity to reconnect with friends or family. Beyond formal instruction, students are leveraging their time to pursue internships, building connections with researchers in their fields, and essentially planting roots here that they can nurture from afar, as it were, to advance their studies and their careers.
The popular Way More Israel, a 4-5 month program based in Jerusalem’s Old City, gets participants started with a Hebrew crash course and tours across the country. This introduction is followed for three months by fascinating, career-advancing internships and volunteering. The experience ends with time on a farm or kibbutz, getting in close touch with the land.
Masa’s Israel Teaching Fellows, an option for beginning teachers and educators, is a 10-month fellowship in which college graduates help fill Israel’s education gap by teaching English in low-income communities and at-risk youth who so badly need this life-changing attention.
Students attending the Hebrew University in Jerusalem’s Rimon Fellows program, created specifically to fill a need that has caught the world off-guard, can take advantage of the city’s diverse options for culture, entertainment, touring, and religious experience. For those who already spent their gap year at a seminary or yeshiva, or who have family there, it’s a chance to reconnect. And attending in the fall semester means being in Israel for the powerful and colorful holiday season of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, which is always a thrilling, unforgettable experience. “The fall semester, in particular, offers a serious logistical advantage,” explains Nomi Weinberger, a Sophomore at Barnard who did a gap year at Midreshet Amit. “Unlike the challenges facing university students in the U.S., academic schedules at Hebrew U incorporate the required breaks in the calendar for the holidays. It simply brings down the stress level we face each year, missing classes, and trying to catch up.”
Israel’s success battling the coronavirus is well documented, as a universal, consistently communicated, and yes – aggressive – approach has yielded encouraging results. As such, there is a much better chance to achieve the normalcy and predictability of organizing the academic year. The Hebrew University is planning for a rich, engaging, “full-featured” fall semester, incorporating the necessary restrictions and distancing, as safeguards that maximize the experience for everyone involved.
“Coming to Israel now is an amazing opportunity to enjoy the Yamim Tovim with longtime friends, connect with familiar Torah institutions and a great fit for those going into hi-tech, eager for exposure to the dynamics that drive the Startup Nation,” says Rabbi Adi Isaacs, Director of the Hebrew University Rimon Fellows program and of Thrive, a semester abroad program that synthesizes academic advancement and exploration of Jewish identity. “The Jerusalem municipality has poured massive resources into infrastructure and incentives to establish a second core location for startup culture and a vibrant community for young adults. Hundreds of companies, accelerators, and VC funds call Jerusalem their home, and more are settling in every day. Add that to the culture, history, and ‘we’re home’ vibe familiar to all religious – and many secular Jews – and Jerusalem emerges as the perfect place to spend time in this unexpected time.”
For more information click here >>>