The pursuit of excellence

International Students at Hebrew University further their expertise through impactful, hands-on experience in Jerusalem’s thriving ecosystems and living laboratories.

  (photo credit: YONIT SCHILLER)
(photo credit: YONIT SCHILLER)

Each year, approximately 2,300 students from over 90 countries flock to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in pursuit of an exceptional academic experience at a global top 100 university. As international students, they enjoy innovative curricula, advanced facilities, vibrant campus life, comprehensive student support services, and membership in a riveting global research community, all while living in one of the world’s most inspiring locations – Jerusalem. 

From the sciences to the humanities, Hebrew University’s international degree programs offer something for everyone. The common thread between them is their innovative, immersive approach, their ability to adapt to shifting global trends, and their balance of theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Essentially, these programs are preparing tomorrow’s skilled researchers, policy-makers, educators, and professionals to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. 

Allison Silfen is an alumna of the International StartUp 360° MBA program, which offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in Israel’s startup ecosystem, while gaining the knowledge and skills to thrive in today’s dynamic business environment. Hailing from Boston, Silfen came to Israel for the 2017 Maccabiah games as a basketball player, beginning her studies at Hebrew University later that year. Following graduation, she secured a job with OrCam – a Jerusalem-based high-tech company that specializes in artificial vision – after learning about the company during a guest lecture given by their Vice President of R&D. 

For Allison, the greatest advantage of the program is its synergy with Jerusalem’s high-tech ecosystem. Some of Israel’s leading entrepreneurs can be found among the program’s faculty and guest lecturers. She not only learned from them, but was able to engage and build relationships with some. “A few of the guest lecturers even invited us to their homes for Shabbat dinner. They’re eager to help you make connections, to see you succeed. Ultimately, they want to keep great minds in Jerusalem.” The opportunity to enter Jerusalem’s close-knit ecosystem was very impactful for Allison, and a major asset to her upon graduation. 

As part of a cohort from the U.S., Asia, South America, and Israel, Allison gained lasting friendships and developed an international network of colleagues with which to boost her career. With a team of her classmates, she experienced her program highlight – taking their product from ideation to a final pitch to potential investors. “The experience was incredibly exciting. I learned that, if I pursue my own ideas in the future, I can succeed. I can dream, and anything is possible.” 

The International StartUp 360° MBA is one example of the many innovative programs on offer. 2021 saw the launch of one of the university’s most future-oriented programs yet – the MA in Smart Cities and Urban Informatics (SCUI). Developed by the Department of Geography in collaboration with the Rothberg International School, the 1-year program attracts tomorrow’s urbanists (analysts, planners, and policy-makers), imparting the knowledge and analytical skills to address the anticipated growth of smart cities. 

Prof. Daniel Felsenstein, academic director of the SCUI program and a faculty member of the Department of Geography, specializes in economic geography, regional science, and urban and regional economics. Felsenstein, an alumnus of the Hebrew University, shares how his journey here began. “I was a long-distance track and field runner, and I came to Israel for the 1981 Maccabiah games as a British athlete.” During his stay, Felsenstein unexpectedly made his way to the Mt. Scopus campus, where he met a professor in the Geography Department who encouraged him to enroll. “I didn’t get a medal,” says Daniel, “but I did get admitted to MA studies in geography and urban planning.” Felsenstein went on to complete his MA and PhD degrees at the Hebrew University, ultimately joining the Faculty of Social Sciences.   

  (credit: YONIT SCHILLER) (credit: YONIT SCHILLER)

As Felsenstein describes the program, one begins to understand just how avant-garde it really is. “’Smart Cities’ is a buzz word, a concept in the making.” By translating massive amounts of collected data into actionable information, smart cities aim to improve the quality of life of their residents. There are several approaches to smart cities, including engineering, design, and computer science. Hebrew University applies a social science perspective. “We train students to understand what smart cities are all about, how they’re harnessing technology to make them a better place to live. Then, we give students the skills to analyze them through a social science lens.”

The program’s first cohort included students from the United States, China, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, France and Israel. “The idea is to showcase Israel as a start-up nation,” explains Daniel. “From Mobileye in Jerusalem to a vehicle testing station in Ashdod, green rooftops in Tel Aviv, and a satellite station for remote sensing in Sde Boker, students witness how smart applications are implemented in Jerusalem and throughout Israel.”

When asked what distinguishes the program from others, Daniel’s response is clear. “It’s the only program of its kind in Israel, and entirely unique amidst the few other programs out there.” In Jerusalem’s technological ecosystem, students put their acquired skills to practice, collecting data right from their backyard. “We’re in Jerusalem, one of the most exciting urban living laboratories in the world.”   

Did you Know?

The university’s founding Board of Governors included extraordinary thinkers like Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.

With 7 faculties across 6 campuses, the university’s 100 research centers are engaged in approximately 3,800 projects.

Over 200 majors and programs are available in English for students of all academic levels and backgrounds. 

Frameworks include short-term programs and internships, study abroad programs, Master’s degree programs, PhD studies, and postdoctoral research.

Courses are taught by renowned Hebrew University faculty whose accomplishments are recognized by distinguished international awards, including 8 Nobel Prizes.

For more information: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

This article was written in cooperation with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem