Location
  • Israel
    • Tel-Aviv
    • Jerusalem
Length
26 - 52 weeks

Program Details

Timeframe
Academic Year Fall Spring
Housing
Apartment
Primary Language
English
Age Min.
17
Age Max
21

Pricing

Price Details
The price of Aardvark Israel includes program tuition, housing, medical insurance, fees for all academic courses, staff, field trips, seminars, local transportation, and more. The only things not included and flights to and from Israel and food in Israel.
What's Included
Accommodation Activities SIM cards Wifi
Apr 27, 2020
Jul 24, 2021

About Program

Aardvark Israel is a program which combines volunteering/interning and learning while living in apartments in Israel (right in the heart of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem) and experiencing Israeli society from many different perspectives. Aardvark Israel is also fully accredited by the American Jewish University, participants can earn up to 30 college credits, whilst also volunteering, interning, touring and deepening their connection to Israel and exploring their Jewish identity. We also offer international trips and special interest add-ons such as Marva (Army); Magen David Adom, Entrepreneurship, and Selah (Jewish learning). Aardvark provides our students with a balanced structure enabling them to build their resume, have meaningful experiences and enough free time to make their own plans to enjoy Israel.

Program Reviews

8.56 Rating
based on 43 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 74.42%
  • 7-8 rating 11.63%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 6.98%
  • 1-2 rating 6.98%
  • Housing 8.3
  • Support 8.3
  • Fun 8.7
  • Value 8.8
  • Safety 8.7
Showing 1 - 8 of 43 reviews
Default avatar
Jenna
3/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Good for getting a visa and meeting interesting people, that's about it

Aardvark is effective at getting you into Israel and for providing housing (although depending on your building/city, the housing ranges from nice apartments in perfect locations to barely liveable - think bug infestations and black mold - in "up and coming" neighbourhoods). This year, especially due to the influx of participants due to the pandemic, there was also a large and diverse group which made meeting interesting, thoughtful, and fun people possible. While most of the social scene revolves around alcohol and partying, the diversity made it possible to find some people who wanted to have meaningful friendships, use their time to get to know Israel's landscape and culture, and make the most of the unique opportunities available to them through their internships, travel, and exploration.

In order to experience these things, however, one must have a high degree of initiative. I found nearly all of the trips and programming provided by Aardvark to be sub-par. While the tour guides were mostly great and knowledgeable, there were not tour guides on every trip and many of the trips were too short or too biased to be valuable to someone who wants to know more than the bare-minimum about only the most popular sites in Israel.

Aardvark's internships, non-trip programming, and classes also left much to be desired. Unless a student was able to utilize connections or their own searching to find an internship, they were left with opportunities that I would not consider worthy of taking a year off of my education for. While fun and fulfilling, the internships were generally unrelated to a student's field of interest and provide little future value. The non-trip programming was juvenile and one-dimensional in all but a couple of instances. The classes should not be accredited by any university and are in no way a substitute for a year of university. The options are very limited, the quality of instruction is low, and the classroom environment is unsuitable for real learning, not to mention extremely COVID-unsafe during Fall 2020.

The staff structure is hierarchical, with the madrichim doing the most participant interaction and being responsible for putting on most programming and then non-madrichim staff filling various other roles such as academic director, internship coordinator, and director. Most of the staff were very nice and did their best to help participants when they needed it, but the staff as a whole were very unorganized and for more serious issues took days or weeks to address them. The rules are also seemingly random and enforced unequally in many situations, with staff sometimes resorting to intimidation to enforce rules around class attendance but leaving serious infractions such as bullying and violence against other participants inadequately (if at all) addressed. The director of the entire program also resorted to ignoring student calls to action to address issues and victim-blaming.

Overall, this program is workable if you or your child has a lot of independence, initiative, and the ability to create a life for themselves outside of or not reliant on Aardvark. I enjoyed my year immensely because I had an internship, classes, experiences, and a social network outside of the program in addition to housing and friends within. If I had not had these and only had what the program provided, I would have left Aardvark and, unfortunately, Israel.

10 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Josh
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best year of my life, good program

I would rate this year 10/10, largely due to the fact that I was in Israel during COVID and blazed my own trail for a lot of experiences but also because Aardvark overall is one of the best Mada programs.

Biggest cons: the staff programming was juvenile at many points, the classes were far from university-level and questionably accredited, and the type of students who choose to come are so wide (due to coronavirus) that it ranged from curious, intellectuals to New York private schoolers who have never met a poor person in their life, which made community building and shared experiences hard to facilitate.

Biggest pros: the Tuesday trips were phenomenal with amazing locations and great history from qualified tour guides, the Jewish experiences were amazing and the program has an excellent Rabbi and learning options, and, lastly, the locations of the apartments are the best in the country, being Rechavia and Florentin. Overall, if you come to Aardvark for the right reasons, it will be the best year of your life.

What would you improve about this program?
Better internship options, optional classes for those not taking credit, more freedom for participants who want to choose their own path.
15 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Betsy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Aardvark Israel

I loved Aardvark Israel. This program allowed me to connect to my homeland while learning more about myself and building relationships with my peers. Not only did I explore the country each week, but Aardvark provided me with an incredible volunteer opportunity in which I interacted with children from all walks of life within Israel. My semester with Aardvark was, and will remain, one of the best four months of my life. The people I met through Aardvark became my
second family and I am beyond grateful.

20 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Daniel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great experience

Over the course of about 7 months, I made a lot of friends from around the world - and that’s what a gap year is all about. We went on many awesome trips and got to meet a lot of interesting people. Personally, I had a great experience at my internship working at a school for asylum seekers. There are few things I can knit pick to criticize about the program. If I could change one thing, I wish they could have mixed us in more with Israelis so we could have made more friends outside of the program. However this is up to you. During my free time, Some of the guys and I used to go to the basketball courts and play with Israelis. During my time in Aardvark I was able to learn Spanish while with some of the other students. Definitely worth it. Aardvark is dope, I would recommend it.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
When my girlfriend and I walked into a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem and almost got attacked. Or when we were playing basketball and almost got into a massive brawl with some Arabs. It was chill tho.
19 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Naftali
3/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Aardvark Experience

I had an abysmal experience with the staff of Aardvark. I suffered a moderate-severe injury while I was on the program. They were completely unsupportive of my medical needs. After countless appointments with different doctors in Israel, the staff still tried to undermine the severity of my injury even after it was confirmed by the doctor. Even worse they threatened to kick me out if I didn’t comply to their requirements for MY injury, I would think that would be the doctors/ my parents call. Would not recommend.

19 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Jaimi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Aardvark Israel

Aardvark Israel was the best experience of my life! It was through the program that I was able to gain new skills, experiences and greater independence. The support the program provided me by encouraging Ng me to pursue my own personal goals whilst creating lifelong a friendships whilst deepening my appreciation and love for Israel was astounding. The international trips exceeded my expectations, as well as the Hebrew and educational speakers which taught me so much more than I thought possible.

What would you improve about this program?
I would improve the limited information given to students about the best places to spend free time.
18 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Gabriel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Gabriel Strauss

To me Aardvark was a year to truly find myself. I was surrounded by new people from all over the world, which pushed me to get to know others. I was given opportunities which without Aardvark I’d never be able to say (travel israel, learn about myself, have friends in every part of the world, etc). The list goes on and on when I think about my year with Aardvark, and I would kill to do be back in the same exact place for just one more day. Aardvark was without a doubt the greatest year of my life !

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take each second you get free, and go out and explore. The only way to make Israel yours is by getting to know why you really love it so much.
18 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Raya
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Do it!

Aardvark opens their arms to every type of student. The balance of freedom and programming provides a space for everyone to grow. Many Aardvark students came to Israel shy and self conscious and left Israel confident and fulfilled. The apartments are based in ideal locations in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I often hear potential gap year students question going to Israel because they do not want to be “brain-washed”. Aardvark is unbiased. They showed us every opinion and allowed us to form opinions.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Listen! Always be willing to listen and you will learn so much more.
16 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers

Yes most kids do party but it’s also really not a big deal to stay in. There’s a solid group of kids that won’t go out and there’s no pressure or anything.