Important Note: Most of the programs that are offered in English are private and therefore are not fully covered by the Student Authority (as with the Israeli programs). Tuition ranges from $6,000 – $25,000, depending on the program. If the program is recognized by the Student Authority, they will pay the equivalent of Israeli tuition (approx. $3,000 a year).

If you are planning on making Aliyah and building a career in Israel, there are many advantages to pursuing a degree in an Israeli university. In certain professions (nursing and law, for example), it pays to study in Israel because U.S.-trained professionals must go through a lengthy licensing process after Aliyah, before they can practice. In other professions, it is worth training in Israel because you graduate well prepared to work in the Israeli work place. Learning first-hand about cultural norms and technical (field-specific) Hebrew vocabulary, and studying current issues related to Israeli society, are natural parts of your studies.  Additionally, it is valuable to have studied in Israel because it provides you with a strong network of professional contacts, which are critical in helping you find a job later.

Despite these advantages, the challenges of studying in Israel cannot be ignored. Most Olim leave behind their families and it is certainly not easy to live so far away from home. In addition, it can be frustrating to study in a Hebrew environment rather than studying in your native language. Finally, in a number of U.S. and Canadian colleges (and for specific courses of study), the quality of the learning experience may be higher than what is available in Israel (although depending on the field and the university, the opposite may be true).

There are pluses and minuses to both sides of the equation and the decision to attend university in Israel is a very personal one, which depends entirely on your own professional aspirations, background and personality. For individual questions or to request a personal consultation please email nbnstudents@nbn.org.il.

Klita: Facilitating Absorption in Israel
There is a certain logic to starting out adult life, creating friendships and gaining experiences, in the country where you plan to build your future. The older you are, the harder it is to adjust to a new cultural environment and norms, and to a different language.

While the difference between pre-college and post-college is only a matter of a few years, in reality, many people who study in U.S. colleges spend additional time in the U.S. after finishing college – and before returning to Israel. Some people have the opportunity to attend graduate schools in the U.S., or they have college loans that need to be partially repaid before making Aliyah. In some cases, people decide to work for a few years and gain experience or savings, before making the move.

All of these considerations are valid and not to be dismissed. However, the result can mean 8 to 10 years (or more) from the time you start university until you make Aliyah.  It is more difficult at that stage to leave an established lifestyle – a home, a good job, American cultural and economic expectations – and to start life again in Israel.

In addition, if you are leaving behind an established career (and possibly coming with a family), it is harder to acculturate into Israeli society. There are immediate pressures to learn Hebrew and find a job.  In contrast, if you make Aliyah pre-college, you have the opportunity to absorb new cultural norms and pick up Hebrew skills at a much calmer pace.

Living on Your Own
One of the greatest challenges of making Aliyah before going to college, is the difficulty of being far away from family. For this reason, many people choose to delay Aliyah until they are comfortable living on their own.

If you are considering attending college in Israel, try to visit different college campuses the year before you intend to start your studies. Find out which places have the best group of like-minded individuals your own age, and get to know people who are already there. For example, for Orthodox Olim, Bar-Ilan has the strongest undergraduate community of English-speaking students. Being part of a strong social support group and developing new friendships can ease the adjustment to living away from home.

Studying in undergraduate or graduate programs gives you opportunities to meet other students who are also recent Olim. Since having a social network is one of the keys to successful klita, it is advantageous to either live in the university dorms or in a nearby neighborhood with young people, which will help you to make friends and become acclimated more easily.

There are several organizations designed to support English-speaking Olim in university.

  • Hillel is a non-denominational student group, with branches throughout the country. (The Hebrew U. branch in particular involves a lot of Olim.) See www.hillel.org

In addition to attending the various social activities organized by student groups, many students enjoy lectures and shiurim. Particularly on the Bar-Ilan campus and in Jerusalem, a wide variety of shiurim are available.

If you’d like to be in touch with Olim who are already studying in Israeli universities, contact the Nefesh B’Nefesh Employment Department at employment@nbn.org.il.

Making Aliyah Easier
There are a number of ways in which students who are new Olim receive special assistance:

  • Government Subsidies for Students: For new Olim who are under the age of 27, the cost of an Israeli undergraduate program is covered by the Ministry of Absorption. For those who make Aliyah after completing an undergraduate degree, the Ministry of Absorption covers the cost of a graduate program if you are under the age of 30. Please click here for more information.
  • Mechina (Preparatory Programs for Olim): Mechina is required for students from North America who are interested in studying in one of the universities with the exception of Bar-Ilan. If you are planning on studying in a college (Michlala), a Mechina will not be required as long as you pass the Yael Hebrew proficiency exam. The Mechina is designed to introduce new Olim to the university without throwing them directly into the Israeli environment. During the Mechina year, students learn Hebrew and take additional coursework, either in Hebrew or in English. After finishing the year, students start their full course of studies alongside their Israeli counterparts. The Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University and Machon Lev (an all-male program) are examples of institutions that offer a Mechina.
    For more details, please click here.
  • Submitting Exams and Papers in English: In many programs, allowances are made for Olim to take exams or write papers in English instead of in Hebrew.

Volunteer Work
Volunteering is an important and enriching part of student life in Israel, and an opportunity to help others while meeting new segments of the Israeli population. Popular volunteer organizations include:

  • PERACH Tutorial Project (www.perach.org.il), which pairs up needy children from underprivileged backgrounds with university students who act as their tutors. University students who are PERACH volunteers receive a stipend.
  • Kedma (www.kedma.org), a student organization aiming to assist disadvantaged communities in Israel.
  • One Family Fund (www.onefamilyfund.org) helps victims of terror.
  • Koby Mandel Foundation (www.kobymandell.org) also helps victims of terror, particularly children.
  • Zichron Menachem (http://www.zichron.org/?lang=us) assists children with cancer.

English-Language Degree Programs in Israel
A number of educational institutions offer undergraduate or graduate programs entirely in English. For a full list, click here. Note that the English-language programs are only partly covered by the government subsidies.

Online Resources

Special thanks to Laura Hoenig and Jessica Singer for their contributions to this article.