Aardvark: Gap Year Program in Israel

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About

Aardvark Israel Gap Year offers 5, 9 and 11 month programs in Israel for recent high school graduates from all over the world that combines immersion into Israeli Society, service to the community through volunteer work and internships, and learning about Israel and Judaism through both formal academic and informal educational encounters. As a fully accredited university program, students may earn college credit for their coursework while on the program.

Aardvark Israel meets the needs of today's "millennial" students by offering a core program with a menu of add-on options enabling students to build their own gap year, including a religious oriented track and a chance to visit countries around the world. Aardvark Israel also meets the needs of today’s parents by providing a better program for a better price than what is currently otherwise available.

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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.

Reviews

88%
based on 21 reviews
  • Housing 8
  • Support 8.1
  • Fun 8.8
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 8.3
Showing 1 - 15 of 21
Default avatar
Avigayil
8/10

Amazing Year

I had probably the best year of my life on Aardvark. It is a program that attracts such a diverse yet open-minded and free-spirited group of people that I will remain friends with for the rest of my life. There was no social hierarchy or intimidation- everyone is friends, and it is an entirely jude-free environment. One of my favorite things about the program is that there is no agenda- the program will help you focus on things that you think are important and want to learn more about and the staff genuinely wants to help you succeed. The schedule is diverse, with trips varying from museums to boat rides to helping pick up trash on beaches. The classes were very interesting and have definitely helped with my hebrew and general knowledge of what's going on in Israel. I would totally recommend this program for anyone that wants a very independent year with room for self-growth while also having lots of fun!

How can this program be improved?
More communication between the staff and students
Yes, I recommend
Max
8/10

A Great Program!

I recently returned from my half semester in Tel Aviv with Aardvark. The program was an amazing opportunity to grow as a person and experience new things independently, or with the fantastic people you meet from all around the world. Events and programs organized by the staff on Aardvark were well executed and engaging, and while a large part of the time is free for students to do as they please, the madrichim are always there to give suggestions and recommendations for things to do. Overall, the program provided me with an unforgettable experience, and being in Israel gave me the chance to do things I would not have done otherwise, such as travel and meet people from all around the world. I highly recommend the program.

How can this program be improved?
More organization and discipline for the students who do not follow program rules or respect other students.
Yes, I recommend
Sem
10/10

Gap year at Aardvark

I'm Sem from Amsterdam.
I had an amazing time at Aardvark! The program has opened a lot of doors for me and taught me so much. I have met so many amazing people from all around the world and lived in one of the most vibrant city I've been 'Tel Aviv'. I really recommend this program to high school graduates who have no idea what to do after high school. You will definitely know yourself better after this year. Just like me.

How can this program be improved?
It can't!
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Miranda
10/10

My Aardvark Experience

I LOVED my year in Israel with Aardvark. thanks to them, I got set up with an incredible internship opportunity with The jerusalem Post, the second largest english speaking newspaper in Israel, and I got to write for them and actually have stories published. The people who do aardvark are all fun, adventurous, and I've made a few really special friendships. There's enough freedom that we get to go on some crazy trips that we planned ourselves, like staying in a beduin tent, snorkeling in eilat, and going to music festivals, and enough structure that we have monthly trips as a group to go on fun hikes and meet different communities in israel and really learn about our surroundings. the locations of the apartments are amazing- i loooooved tel aviv especially. I can't say enough about how great aardvark is- it really gives you a community and amazing opportunities. this year was totally unforgettable.

Yes, I recommend
Noah
10/10

The Beginning of my Future

Aardvark Israel Gap Year was by far the most transformative experience of my adolescence. I had a very interesting experience with planning for a gap year, because of my age. I made the decision to graduate high school early, and move to Israel. However, I needed a program that would allow me to participate from January through the summer. I searched and searched until I found Aardvark Israel. Upon finding the 'one semester' option with Aardvark, I reached out to two friends who had previously been students with Aardvark, received glowing reviews, and decided it was the right option for me.

I arrived in Israel shortly after my 18th birthday, and moved into my amazing apartment in south Tel Aviv. I could not have asked for a better location to live. From the apartment location, you could walk for 10 minutes, and reach the beach, the market, Jaffa, many restaurants, or the central bus station of Tel Aviv that would allow access to the entire country.

Aardvark is the perfect amount of supervision and supervised activities, mixed with a great amount of group touring, and free time. Daily activities included: volunteering/internships/add on tracks in the morning and early afternoon, ulpan and other classes in the mid afternoon, and optional group activities (spray painting workshops, karaoke nights, group shabbat dinners, yoga lessons, etc.) in the evenings. On Tuesdays, and one weekend per month, the staff of Aardvark coordinated a group day trip or overnight trip. Some of these included: a tour of the central bus station, 'Dialogue in the Dark' (a museum about being blind in Israel), sight seeing in Caesarea, camping trips, the list goes on and on. Tiyul Tuesday was for sure a highlight of my time in Israel, and the weekend overnights were something very exciting to look forward to!

My experience was enhanced with Aardvark's Entrepreneurship Track. This add on focused on the start-up culture of Tel Aviv. Two times per week, the students of this track would meet to experience something within the start up community. We visited the Israel Coca-Cola Factory, Facebook's Middle East Headquarters, Venture Capitalist firms, Start-up accelerators, Google's 'outside of America Headquarters', and many more. This was one of the highlights of my Aardvark experience. Experiencing Tel Aviv in a way so different from any other group made this more exciting and something that everyone in the group enjoyed.

Going in to my 'gap year' I was expecting to go to Israel with no structure, run around, and do my own thing, but Aardvark Israel Gap Year is not that. It is so much more! Aardvark was properly structured and positively impacted by wonderful, nurturing and helpful staff. From the counselors, to the rabbis, to the office staff, to the directors, every person who works for Aardvark wants nothing besides the absolute best for their students and participants. These were the people who helped us plan weekend excursions to go hiking on the Israel Trail, who taught many to cook their first meals, who acted as our parents when we needed help, were sick, or needed to see a doctor. The staff of Aardvark were the people who were happy to come to work each day, and this made the most of the participant's experiences. Great staff makes a great gap year, and that is just what the Aardvark Staff did.

My gap year helped me mature, helped me grow as a person, and helped me decide what to do with my future.

My heart belongs in Israel, and this is all because of my experiences on Aardvark. My decision to move to Israel and attend university at IDC was made because of the opportunities Aardvark allowed me.

Aardvark Israel Gap Year was by far the best gap year that I could have asked for.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Staci
10/10

An Amazing Program with Incredible Opportunities

If you're reading this and considering Aardvark, good for you. Around two years ago, I was in your place too, perusing gap year programs and deciding which was the one for me. The thing about gap year programs, similarly to colleges, is that not everyone functions well in all of them. Aardvark is a more independent program, and if that's not necessarily what you're looking for in a program, than maybe it's not right for you. But oh, what an amazing program Aardvark was for me!!

Aardvark stands above other gap year programs because it has this freedom. What you put into it is what you get out of it.

For example, the internships and volunteering. There were kids straight out of high school writing printed articles in the Jerusalem Post and volunteering at the Knesset, people working at record companies with real musicians and art galleries with real artists. There were kids working the stands in Shuk Machane Yehuda, interacting with Israelis as their job every morning. I, for example, worked as an intern at the World Zionist Organization and was able to meet presidents and other world leaders as part of my job. Bakeries and woodshops and hummus restaurants and graphic design and start up companies and grassroots political organizations; you name it, Aardvark can connect you with an internship.

The classes and teachers were super beneficial. Although definitely not as rigorous as a traditional American college course, the teachers were kind and cared about us as individuals, and the classes were more discussions regarding the topics. They were primarily Israel and Judaism related, and surprisingly (compared to other gap year programs) nonpolitical, leaving room for discussion about the conflict and about religion on every end of the spectrum. Again, if you're the type to not take initiative in class, you won't necissarily be forced to work hard, but the opportunity is there.

Once a week, Aardvark takes a local trip. These can be anything from a walking neighborhood tour to wine tasting to a hike or a day long trip to a nearby city. They were fun and varied in time and length, offering some free time or a full day of programming. The variation was welcome and exciting.

Yes, the staff on Aardvark are young and were a bit inexperienced. Honestly, I had a bit of trouble with one of my staff members during the semester. However, all of the staff members had the best intentions and wanted to help. Especially the administration of Aardvark, who are all based in the offices and are as accessible as the staff - they're helpful, fun, and want to make you have the best experience possible. If there is a problem with a staff member, there are people and resources to listen

Aardvark has a lot of freedom compared to other programs. My friends and I took advantage of this by planning lots of weekend trips: renting Airbnb tents in the middle of the desert just a camel ride away from the Mitzpe Ramon crater, camping in the Sataf forest and watching the sun rise over Jerusalem, setting up a tent village with almost 30 people and communally living for the weekend on the shores of the Kinneret, and so much more. We attended galleries and concerts and museums, went to the beach in our free time and bar hopped and went nightclubbing, but as all young people with a legal drinking age do, and amongst taking classes and attending internships.

Aardvark balances its programming side with the freedom it also allows students, but that's exactly what makes it as incredible and beautiful as it is. We lived freely and fully. Other programs had so many restrictions, more hectic programming and scheduling, but if that's what you want in a program, Aardvark might not be for you. Although there are awesome activities nearly every day and internships every weekday morning and classes and Hebrew lessons throughout the week, Aardvark respects its students enough to allow them to make their own decisions in what they'd like to do with their free time, which really separates it from other programs. On Aardvark, I felt like I was really in charge of myself with a really strong support system and base schedule from the program.

If you want to experience Jerusalem and Tel Aviv not as a foreigner, but as a member of society, grocery shopping and doing your laundry on your own, Aardvark is the perfect program to give you a diving off point for an incredible year. I could not recommend this program enough - it just takes a little initiative.

The pictures below are:
1. Me sitting at my kitchen table in our Aardvark apartment in Tel Aviv
2. My roommates & I in front of our poster wall (all from the streets of TLV) posing in Aardvark shirts before an event
3. My friend and I skipping gleefully at a music festival we attended one weekend during Aardvark

How can this program be improved?
The staff could be a little older, and the apartments themselves could be a little more clean.
Response from Aardvark Israel

We're so happy you had a great year on our program! Based on feedback from students like yourself, we've made several improvements to our program moving forward. For example, the counselors are older and have more experience than those of previous years. We've also added more group events to the program in order to provide more structure. Thanks for your review.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Rachel
1/10

Aardvark Israel - A Great Way To Waste Your Money And Your Gap Year

In my junior year of high school I spent two months on Alexander Muss High School in Israel. It was one of the best experiences of my life. We learned jewish history, from creation to present day, and travelled around Israel learning about the country and experiencing the culture. The classes and the field trips were amazing, and the two months were so inspiring that when it was over I immediately knew I wanted to go back to Israel for my gap year.

One of my biggest regrets was choosing to spend my gap year on Aardvark. This is a great program for anyone interested in partying the year away without any structure or adult supervision. Honestly it hardly felt like a program at all. Every aspect of the program from the internships to the field trips were unorganized and poorly planned. It constantly felt like everything was thrown together at the last minute. Most of the trips were boring, and no where near as engaging and educational as the ones I experienced on AMHSI. I could have easily done the same things on my own for a much cheaper price. The staff and madrichim were young and did not know how to control a group of students so close in age to them. My madricha was no more than 2 years older than me, unsupportive, and extremely unhelpful. When I would ask her a question or for directions she would reply "Ask Google". The program had no real structure, and it was obvious.

There were few students who had good experiences with their internships and volunteer work. I personally felt like I was not gaining any useful work experience, and ultimately felt I was wasting my time. Most students quickly realized you could skip, and even quit your internship without getting caught by the madrichim, and took advantage of this.

The classes were uninspiring, and although they were accredited by AJU, I did not feel like I learned much. Now, after attending a full year of university, I know for a fact the classes were not adequate.

There was only one staff member who I felt was supportive, and invested in my experience. She was the only staff member who acknowledged my complaints and concerns, and tried to work with me to improve my experience. She cared about the program, and worked hard to improve it for the sake of the students. Sadly this was not recognized and she no longer works for Aardvark. Me and many of my fellow students felt like Aardvark was a business, rather than a program invested in our experience.

Overall I feel like my experience on Aardvark distanced me even further from my judaism, and left me feeling resentful toward Israel. I look back on my gap year with regret and disappointment.

The reviews below are good, but keep in mind that it is only a small fraction of Aardvark alumni that have taken the time to write a response. I know for a fact that many of the other students in my year were also extremely unhappy with the program.

Response from Aardvark Israel

We're sorry you feel that way. As anyone viewing this can see, the vast majority of our students were highly satisfied and had profoundly positive experiences.

No, I don't recommend
Default avatar
Mark
2/10

Poor Health and Safety - Inadequately Trained Staff

The apartments are not well maintained and in a poor part of Tel Aviv. They suffer from serious damp, lack of proper furniture and very poor quality bedding. It can only be described as rough living for a prince's ransom.

The counsellors are just out of the army and only slightly older than the kids on the programme. They do not have the experience, or training, to deal with many of the issues which can arise when a child is living away from home for the first time.

The programme does not offer much. Four mornings per week are spent on internships and then some very basic teaching three afternoons per week. There are trips, but these are mostly local. There is a lot of fallow time, which may be fun but hardly good value.

Don't expect any refunds should you find the programme to be ultimately inadequate. Should you proceed you will need to understand this is at your risk.

Response from Aardvark Israel

"We are sorry you were not fully satisfied with the program. As you can see, the majority of our students are highly satisfied with the program so we are concerned that you weren't. You mentioned a maintenance issue in your child's apartment and unfortunately, occasionally there are breakdowns as the result of normal wear and tear. These issues are always attended to within 24 hours by professionals. Our program staff are highly trained and carefully chosen to best suit the needs of the students: most have served senior roles in the Israeli army and been involved in youth work for many years. The educational classes offered are provided through the American Jewish University and are all accredited university level courses. Our students typically give the courses and the instructors great reviews, but perhaps your child did not make a connection with his/her teacher or find the style of learning one that matches his/her preference. Our weekly field trips cover the length and breadth of the country over the course of the year and there are over 100 different wonderful opportunities the students have for volunteering and internships. We are proud of the program and all that it offers and we are very sorry you don't feel the same way.

No, I don't recommend
Default avatar
Nadav
9/10

A Mix That Really Works

Still in the program. About to finish first half in Tel Aviv, then going on to Jerusalem. This is a very rich program in diversity and experience. I love the internship, the trips, the support, the team.

How can this program be improved?
quite study area for home work
better mattresses
bigger room with desks for homework
the apartments are fantastic but are more of a living space then living space plus place for students to study.
5 dudes sharing a shower/bathroom although really nice facilities, is allot of sharing...would be nice to have less guys sharing same bathrooms.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Ketzia
10/10

Life changer

Aardvark was, without a doubt, the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me. Was the program perfect? No. No program is without its faults, but the resources and opportunities that Aardvark provides its students are tools that can be used and applied throughout the rest of their lives.

I learned so much both about myself and my Jewish identity while on this program. I grew spiritually and mentally and I am a full believer that I am better off now, having waited a year before attending college, than I would have been had I gone straight through without taking a gap year.

You get the chance to explore the country and develop a greater understanding of the Jewish state. I never considered myself a Zionist before, but Israel now plays a very important part in both my life and my belief system. Who knows exactly what the future holds in store, but my opinions and love towards Israel have changed irrevocably.

I've made life long friends and miss the country and the Aardvark staff terribly. I know that my academic journey must continue, but I am forever indebted to Aardvark for helping to guide and shape me into the person I am today.

How can this program be improved?
There is not a huge amount of organized programming which I didn't think was a bad thing, it just may not be what other students need. This program isn't a perfect match for everyone. However,one of the greatest things about Aardvark is that whatever you are hoping to get out of the year, they will help however they can. Have a clear idea in your head what you what to get out of the program. If you're looking for a gap year that will choose your path for you, then this is probably not the best option, but if you're independent and want guidance along your journey, than Aardvark is a program you should seriously consider.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Aaron
10/10

The best year of my life was on Aardvark Israel

Before I went to college I knew I wanted to do a gap year in Israel. Aardvark Israel appealed to me for many reasons. It offered independence, minimalist structure and would allow me to participate in both Magen David Adom and Marva. I had the best year of my life on my gap year in Israel and it was all thanks to the amazing people I met on Aardvark. The kids from every other gap year program were always jealous of Aardvark because we had the most fun :) Get ready for an amazing adventure!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Kerren
10/10

An experience to remember

Coming from South Africa and coming with no friends I was nervous. I was even more nervous because I came in January during spring semester. But on arrival I was welcomed by 3 amazing madrichim in Jerusalem. Then I met my room mates who were there from America. One joined when I did and the other had been there since September. I chose to Jerusalem as coming from a religious background I felt more connected then Tel Aviv.

The next day we went on our first over night trip to Ein Geddi. There we met up with the Tel Aviv students. That night we had a break the ice activities. We learnt about what to expect on the program and what was expected of us.

The next week we started our volunteering. I was at a Gan. It was difficult in the beginning as most of the kids spoke only Hebrew. My Hebrew wasn't up to scratch but as the months went on I learnt both from the Gan and Ulpan. I honestly loved every minute of being there. Sure some days were harder then others but because I enjoyed it so much I didn't mind. (This was 4times a week).

In the afternoons we had classes. I did Ulpan (which was mandatory), film and news around Israel and a midrash class. The ulpan class was interesting because everyone coming from different backgrounds we had different influences and our knowledge was all at different levels. I was in level 2.
The film class was done by our madrichim. The films were informative and relevant to our society and the way we live today. The ones that were in Hebrew you had to concentrate a bit but nothing to serious. News around Israel:the group got given articles from an online magazine or newspaper and we had to read it. After that we had a discussion on our thoughts and if it was something good what we could do to continue it and if it was something bad how we can try change that.
Midrash: it was me and 2 other people. Growing up in a religious environment I loved the class. It was easy enough for all of us to understand but also done in a way that made us think outside the box and not in a simple way.
(These happened 3times a week).

Tuesday trips: every Tuesday we went on a trip around Israel. The ones that were most memorable for me were: Sderot, Haifa, Temple Mount, Chevron. The reason for this is because they were places I hadn't been to before. It was beautiful to see and experience the way in which other people within Israel live. Some areas poorer than others, the natural beauty in the gardens and how it is preserved and how other religions view these places either holy or spiritual.

From Thursday afternoon, after classes, it was the weekend :D. There were plenty of options on what you could do. You could go to friends or family, have people stay at you, if your room mates agreed, if you wanted to party going to Tel Aviv and having accommodation was never a problem. People on the program either have an extra bed or you just used the pull out couches.
Every 2nd month there was a shabbaton. For this you went to different location from Friday till Saturday night. I went on one in the desert. It was peaceful and relaxing and was an opportunity to get a few things off my chest.

In Jerusalem across the street from our apartments there was a pizza and felafel take away place. It was a blessing. Whenever I wasn't in the mood to cook there was somewhere for me to get food (what a Jewish thing to say).
About a 5 minute walk away was a grocery store. There were always specials on products and many things were sold in bulk which for me was a bonus because it meant less money spent on food and more on shopping.

During the week at night there were optional activities which the madrichim put together. We had a poitjie night, pesach masterchief, keriokee, cheese and wine before Shavuot, a trip to Nachlaot and the shuk.

To end off this very long review although it was hard the people I have met from around the world are friendships that will last forever.

I hope this was helpful if not please let me know and I will add things in.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I had a problem with was the Tel Aviv area. Although it is a hip and upcoming place I didn't feel safe. It was just very sketchy and everything just always felt dirty
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Kali
10/10

My Year as an Aardvark

I am really glad that I chose to do Aardvark. We had a schedule which allowed us to have enough free time to explore the cities in which we lived and also on the weekends to explore the rest of the country. We had great volunteering options and we got to go on trips around the cities in which we lived each Tuesday, which was really fun. It was nice to see both sides of Israel- the religious (Jerusalem) and the hip (Tel Aviv.) It was exhilarating to switch from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv midway through the year.

How can this program be improved?
I think that the behind the scenes of the program needs to be more organised, because the participants noticed that it wasn't the most organised.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Fred
9/10

Start of a journey

Aardvark really changed my life. It's true beauty is that you are ultimately responsible for you own experience. There is more freedom than any other program of its type and they set you up with apartments in good areas of tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The basic structure is volunteering in the morning, classes in the afternoon and optional activities most evenings. You could choose from a wide range of volunteer positions (I was an intern at a start up company and volunteered on an ambulance) you can even set up volunteering yourself if you have a specific passion that they could set it up yourself. You can also switch volunteer positions, so the experience here is all on yourself.
You can take a light or heavy classload. However, I was somewhat disappointed in the short amount of Hebrew lessons and the selection of classes. I know it is a small amount of students so they can only have so many classes but I think a larger emphasis on Hebrew should be given. It is the language here and you will be living here for at least half a year after all. That being said I worked hard on my Hebrew in class and volunteering and improved my Hebrew a lot.
Activities were a little bit hit or miss but that is on how many people show up and with what attitude.
Field trips were generally once a week and were educational and enjoyable

The true beauty of the aardvark program is its freedom. Most evenings after 6 and nearly all weekends you are free. I had no choice but to learn how to cook, you must feed yourself
There are lots to explore in both cities, more than you can ever do in 4 months. In tel Aviv you are 2 minutes walk from some of the best bars in tel Aviv on Florentine Street.
You must learn how to budget yourself, a true life skill. Every weekend I went on a different adventure, I tried not to be in the apartments on the weekends, tried to really experience the country without breaking the bank. Aardvark allowed me to do that, and based on my year in Israel I decided to stay and make aliyah
Would recommend for the adventurous type.
In short great opportunity that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to spend some time in Israel before college

How can this program be improved?
Class selection
To survey the participants and see what they want to take.
Higher emphasis on learning Hebrew!
More helping activities teaching us more recipes tricks for living together etc
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Grace
10/10

My Gap Year

The only regret that I have is that I only completed one semester. I wish I was there for the whole year. I fell in love with Israel and made life long friendships. A great balance of independence for me and comfort level for my parents. Aardvark was an incredible experience and I feel I really grew as a person.

How can this program be improved?
Aside from wishing I was in Israel longer, there should be more interaction between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on the group Tiyuls as only doing one semester it can be hard to create the connections with the other section.
Yes, I recommend

About Aardvark Israel

Aardvark Israel invites high school graduates and college students to join our trendy, young, hip, urban experience. We offer different types of programs all located in the two most exciting cities on the planet: Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

With...