Aardvark: Gap Year Program in Israel

Video and Photos

Images of students in Israel
Images of students in Israel
Group listens to instructor
Group listens to instructor
Male and females rock climb
Male and females rock climb
Female students hike in Israel
Female students hike in Israel
Male holds a snake
Male holds a snake
Males pose in front of poster in Israel
Males pose in front of poster in Israel
Biking along the Mediterranean Sea with a great friend!
Having fun telling AMHSI students about Aardvark

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.

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

86%
based on 34 reviews
  • Housing 8.2
  • Support 8.4
  • Fun 8.7
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 8.6
Showing 1 - 8 of 34
Default avatar
Nomi
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An amazing experience

I was on the program for 2 semesters and I had a great time. I cannot imagine doing anything else but this program for my gap year. The program really allowed me to grow as an individual and have a sense of independence I didn’t have before, I learned how to provide for myself and how to live with other people who had different lifestyles than me. I also had the experience of going on one of their many international trips which was an amazing experience and I definitely recommend, because some of these trips are a once in a lifetime experience.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take every opportunity you have to try something new, also travel around Israel as much as you can.
Default avatar
Aliya
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I LOVE Aardvark

Aardvark was the best 7 months of my entire life!

I spent a semester in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem which allowed me to experience the vastly different aspects of Israeli society. In both places I got to enjoy everything the city had to offer. In Jerusalem I chose to go to hosted shabbos every Friday and spend my weekends doing picnics in the park or walking around the Old City. In Tel Aviv I spent almost every weekend on the beach, exploring Yafo with my friends, and sometimes going clubbing.

The program allows for plenty of free time to explore the country and your city, while also having really interesting structured programs (especially Tiyul Tuesdays in Jerusalem).

The staff is beyond caring and provide you with the perfect safety net while you learn to live on your own. They check in to make sure you're doing okay but they definitely don't baby you.

Also, Aardvark offers AMAZING international trip add-ons. I went to China and Spain and had the absolute best time. This is a huge advantage to choosing Aardvark over another gap year program.

To summarize, I can assuredly say that I left Aardvark as a more confident and capable person, with a deeper appreciation for Israel, and best friends that I know will last a life time.

If you're even considering a gap year in Israel I highly recommend Aardvark and encourage you to call and speak to someone from the program!

What would you improve about this program?
If you're looking for a highly academic program Aardvark might not be the exact fit. While there is a large variety of classes to choose from I did not find any of them to be particularly challenging. I still enjoyed and learned plenty but it was not rigorous by any means. You can get valid credits through Aardvark but just know the classes are on the less challenging side- but I'm sure that's a plus for a lot of people!
Default avatar
Moshe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best year of my life

I spent 2 semesters on the Aardvark Israel program and I look back at the time I spent there as truly the best year of my life to date. The program allowed me enough freedom to enjoy my time here to the fullest but also provided structure to keep me busy and on track. I was set up with an amazing volunteering opportunity working in a soup kitchen first semester and I was able to continue working in a kitchen with my internship in a restaurant second semester. I learnt so many valuable skills during my work and I’m grateful for the work that my internship coordinators put in to make sure I was being keeping myself happy and productive. The friends I made on the program are family to me and the environment that Aardvark created allowed me to form bonds with people from all walks of life that I would never have met otherwise. I’m grateful for the time I spent on the program and I wish I could come back for another semester

What would you improve about this program?
If I could improve anything on the program I would change some of the trips we went on to more engaging activities rather than what sometimes felt like an extra lecture
Default avatar
leah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

i love aardvark

aardvark israel was the best year of my life. i was able to make israel exactly what i wanted to be and learn the things about myself i set out to learn. i gained independence, met friends, and learned about judaism and zionism. it was my first time in israel, and aardvark allowed me to see the whole country. the israel education comes from both sides and allows you to form your own opinions about the conflict, which is so important, and the classes teach you so much. i love aardvark and am trying to get my brother to do it i love it so much!

What would you improve about this program?
organization could be a little frustrating, like occasionally things didn’t go to plan.
Default avatar
Nico
3/10
No, I don't recommend this program

This gap year is a waste of your valuable time and money

I spent a semester in Aardvark's Tel Aviv program and it left me feeling let down and lied to. The program looks great on paper - college courses, internships, and weekly trips around Israel sound like a thrilling and productive way to spend a semester or two. Unfortunately, this isn't true.

The classes:
Most of the classes are taught poorly with seemingly random structure, and all of the classes are basic to the point where it is insulting to call them college level courses. They are freshman year of high school level.
The Hebrew classes are the most atrocious - regardless of what level you are in, you will be faced with Hebrew teachers who spend only about half of the allotted class time teaching Hebrew, while the other half is spent on lessons that are simple and meandering, and the end result is a bunch of students who walk away without having learned little (if any) new Hebrew from when they began. Also, three teachers for Aardvark quit during the fall 2019 semester, which in itself is concerning.

The internship:
The internship aspect of the program is a bit like a lottery. There is one internship coordinator for the whole Tel Aviv program and one for the Jerusalem program. They are hardworking and really care about all of their students, but not all students will land good internships. They only hired one person for this job per city, and while Aardvark boasts that they have a large quantity of internships to choose from, this is misleading. When the semester started, many of these options declared that they would not be accepting any interns this term, and several dozen students were left without an internship for the first 1 to 4 weeks of the program. Some people were very happy with their internship, but be warned that the results vary greatly.

The weekly trips (tiyuls):
The weekly trips were hit or miss. Some were truly wonderful, most were incredibly boring. It is worth noting that not all of the tiyuls are field trips, I'd say only about a quarter of the total trips fit this description. For the most part, these consist of visits to nearby museums, or a day of lectures, or simply a day off - meaning no activities planned whatsoever. I'd say there were about five trips that were genuinely fun and engaging. You could possibly have more fun trips packed into a ten day birthright program if you haven't done birthright yet (this program will invalidate your ability to since it is 4+ months in Israel).
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Here's the main bright spot amidst an otherwise abysmal program: The madrichim (counselors). All of the counselors in Aardvark Tel Aviv genuinely care about their students and work hard to try and help their students have fun. I love all of the Tel Aviv madrichim. It is worth noting that there are more mixed reviews for the Aardvark Jerusalem madrichim. There is one madrich in particular who many find unprofessional, inappropriate, and cruel. People tend to dislike most of the others as well.
Other than the madrichim, the other staff members clearly care about bringing the best program possible to the students. The director of education is a really really great guy who is trying his hardest to patch up all the holes of the sinking ship that is Aardvark.
I really like talking to all the staff members I've interacted with, they're wonderful people and they're doing their best, but this can't fix the fact that the experience provided to students is substandard at best, and false advertising at its worst.

If you care at all about having educational, engaging, or meaninful experiences during your gap year, this is not the program for you.

What would you improve about this program?
The program desperately needs revamped classes with new teachers and more structured schedules.
The program also needs more frequent and engaging activities.
Default avatar
Jeremy
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A parent's review

A gap year for a parent can mean one of two things, firstly it could be a bank balance sucking mechanism where your darling parties around the world spending your money and coming back with limited life experience or alcohol poisoning, on the other hand, it could be a life changing experience whose value is worth many times more than the currency you paid for it.

Our daughter Hannah chose Aardvark and the indelible mark it has left on her could not be paid for in hard currency. Like everything in life, you are given opportunities, how you choose to utilize them is up to you. The Aardvark programme gives the young people some structure, but freedom as well, what they choose to do with the freedom is up to them and they sometimes don’t realise the impact that it has on others. You can choose to go to your Internship, but should you miss regularly it will have an impact when Aardvark approaches the companies to take on interns again, as well as, the opportunity to learn about a potential career choice. If you want to skip the Hebrew classes your ability to integrate with the society will be compromised. There is no one telling you to get up in the morning and make your bed or eat, if you party hard the night before (you are a young adult) that decision is yours, if you are legally allowed to drink there is no one to tell you not to overdo it, however if you choose to follow the system you will definitely grow.

You will experience the culture and the peoples and the food and pretty much everything else Israel has to offer, if you choose to go on one or more of the add on trips, you will get an opportunity to meet people and see places that you would otherwise never get. You will learn what it is like to live with at least 4 other people who may be very different to you, you will learn about conflict resolution, you will learn to compromise, you may even learn what your limits are and how to push them, and all the while have an awesome, fun, raving time. You will meet people from all around the world, and you will learn what it is like for a short period of time to live in the amazing land of Israel.

As a parent if you are looking for a gap year for your young adult to grow or grow up in, then I highly recommend Shay-El, Idan and the team at Aardvark. Warning; you may just lose your child to the beautiful land of Israel.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Make the most of every single opportunity. You’ll get out what you put in
Default avatar
Hannah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Best Decision Ever!

It was purely by chance that I found aardvark Israel at an expo in South Africa, but it is something that I will always be grateful for as the aardvark Israel program changed my life, literally forever. I had the most amazing time and I am now currently living in Israel after making Aliyah and going to the IDF – all thanks to Aardvark.

I woke up everyday and went to an internship that I loved. I worked at an architectural firm where I did web design, content writing, building design and worked on floor plans. My office was down the street from my very modern and homey apartment in the center of Florentine which meant that I could run home and have a quick lunch with my roommates before we headed off to classes together. My middle eastern politics class was the class I looked forward to on most days. It was just so interesting, and Mr. Goldstein kept me extremely intrigued. If I wasn’t busy in the evenings with the awesome night programs with our madrichim (such as going to see Eurovision live) I was chilling at home or exploring the arty city of Tel Aviv. My weekends were calm and uninterrupted, but I always knew that should something go wrong or I just need to chat that there was a madrich close by that I could count on. I was able to meet people from all over the world and learn so much about so many different cultures because Aardvark had such a mixed group of students.

Aardvark allowed me to explore Israel and explore myself within a structured but free environment. We travelled all over the country, from north to south, Aardvark made sure that we were exposed to every aspect of Israel. My favorite trip was the one to Ethiopia – I mean who goes to Ethiopia?? Well we did and it was absolutely incredible! I was given insight into the privilege of living in Israel as we interacted with the Jews in Gondar and even attended a Shacrit service with them! I then also had an awesome week travelling in America before I embarked on a journey to work on Summer Camp in Pennsylvania as part of the Plus Program. Every trip I went on, whether within Israel or overseas, was meticulously planned and executed so that every student could gain the most from the experience.

If anyone were to ask me if I would do it again, my answer would be 100% yes and I would not change a thing. Six months later just about to start the IDF I still pop into the office to see my Madrich Idan and Shay-El because I know that they were not only my support system whilst I was on the program but they have become my family and will be one of my support systems as I live out the rest of my life in Israel (a decision I have made based purely on the experience that Aardvark Israel gave me).

For anyone who does not recommend this program was clearly wrong for it from the start. One must be open minded and ready for a change in their life as you live in what I believe (but I am biased) to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world and to be on one of the best gap year programs that is out there in the world.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
To all future Aardvarkians:

Take every moment that you are given and enjoy it! The special memories that you make will be the best ever and if you take a deep breath and absorb your surroundings you will have an awesome time! Do every extra activity that aardvark offers, whether it be parsha and pizza or just movie night in the moadon because they all add up and make your gap yea absolutely meaningful. Your gap year is only as good as you make it for yourself and if you go on aardvark I have no doubt that it will be amazing!
Default avatar
Benji
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing

This year was really great for me and allowed me to grow. It was great learning from people and meeting new people. I really matured a lot and learnt to live independently without my parents.
I participated in the Year Plus Program doing one semester in Tel Aviv, going and working at Summer Camp in America, and then coming back to Israel for a Semester in Jerusalem. It was the best decision I ever made to participate in Year Plus because I really matured being a counselor and the extra time on the program really helped me figure out what I want to do in life.
I really wish I could do a third semester, but they don’t have that yet. But maybe one day!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The beginning meeting new people but i made friends very quickly and in the next week you are basically best friends