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
Jan 10, 2022
4 travelers are looking at this program

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

8.58 Rating
based on 50 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 76%
  • 7-8 rating 10%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 8%
  • 1-2 rating 6%
  • Housing 8.3
  • Support 8.1
  • Fun 8.8
  • Value 8.8
  • Safety 8.6
Showing 1 - 8 of 50 reviews
Default avatar
Gabi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Gap Year Experience!!

This program is absolutely fantastic for people who want a year of fun, personal growth, development and especially independence. I did the fall semester in Jerusalem and it was fantastic! I have learnt so much about living on my own and with roommates and it's a once in a life time experience. If you have the opportunity to come on Aardvark, do it! I loved it so much I wish I could have stayed longer!

The location of the apartments is right in the centre of town making it easy and accessible to acquire essentials and also go out to have fun (e.g. food, shopping etc...). The two apartment buildings are seconds away from each other making it easy to visit your friends apartments.

I did two internships - Lady Morgana (Jewellery store) and Kli-Che (sun printing art studio) which were absolutely wonderful and I loved them so much that I've kept in touch and have gone back to visit many times after the program had finished. I really enjoyed the Tiyul Tuesdays where the whole community were together as we explored Israel. We travelled to many parts of Israel where we hiked and viewed important historical sights. We had an overnight trip in Kibbutz Keturah, a kibbutz located close to Eilat, and it was a fascinating experience where we learnt about kibbutz life and were able to immerse ourselves in Israeli culture!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way and reach out to people! There are so many people from all over the world and it is a wonderful experience getting know others from different walks of life.
16 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Anonymous
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best time of my life

I did Aardvark Spring/Summer 2021 in Tel Aviv. I was there from the start of April through the end of July (it was delayed a bit due to COVID). As I reflect on my time in Israel five months later, it still makes me emotional.
My time in Aardvark was truly the most impactful of my life. For the first half of the program, I lived on Allenby Street with all 70 other Aardvark kids in the same building. The location truly could not have been better and it was so fun with everyone sharing the building. The second half, we moved to Florentin, a slightly quieter area. My apartment was on the top floor and we had a large balcony (like the size of a basketball court) with a beautiful city view. My roomates and I would often have a huge group of friends come to the balcony for Shabbat dinners or to socialize before going out. I interned at a local NGO that was right next to the beach. I loved my coworkers and it felt impactful without being stressful. I felt super duper safe, I would often walk home alone at night and did not feel nervous at all (something I miss now being back in the US).
Here was my average schedule: wake up, take the bus to my internship, have lunch w my coworkers on the beach paviliaon, walk home a couple miles and find a cute spot to journal along the way, go for a run to Jaffa, go grocery shopping, cook dinner, meet up with my friends, go to a bar or club, go for a nighttime swim, then walk home along the beach. So so so fun.
The highlight, however, was the weekend adventures. My friends and I would plan mini-trips all over the country. Once we rented a cheap Airbnb and all squeezed in, other times we would stay at hostels. I met the coolest people and learned SO much. I learned new perspectives on everything Israel-related and became so much more independent. As a testament to this newfound independence, I finished my gap year by backpacking solo around Eastern Europe for 10 days.
My advice to everyone on Aardvark is to say yes to every opportunity and journal so you remember these incredible experiences a few years down the road. Not everything will be perfect, but if you roll with the punches, you will end up with some amazing memories. Some people might think that these types of programs try to "brainwash" you into being blindly zionist. However, I encourage you to seek out authentic experiences, and you too can understand and appreciate the complexities of the country. While I was nervous about anti-Israel sentiments occurring at my college, I actually found that I was extremely prepared to discuss the issue maturely with others, mostly due to my experiences in Israel. I plan to make Aliyah after college, something I never considered before Aardvark. Ultimately, I left Israel feeling more confident about who I am and where I am going than ever before in my life.

19 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Sarah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best year ever!

Aardvark was the perfect program for me - the right amount of freedom as well as support. I met so many incredible people from around the world and subsequently learnt about different countries and ways of living. I expanded my mindset, stepped out of my comfort zone and gained so much independence - all my goals for my gap year. My internship/volunteering was definitely the highlight of my year (hagal sheli) and I’m still in contact with the people I met and worked with on a weekly basis. All in all, I can’t wait to head back to israel, reunite with all of the beautiful people I met and attempt to relive the best year of my life…

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

Crazy good

The people both staff and students were super friendly, welcoming and easy to talk to. We went on great trips around israel and the adaptivity of the program meant I was able to tailor my experience to get the most out of it. The staff adapted really well to COVID restrictions and pursued to ensure we had a program.
We travelled through a lot of israel and learnt about the history of the beautiful country. The ulpan was great too and we were able to speak the language.
Highly recommend the program

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Try everything
Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone
17 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Danielle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Best Israel Gap Year Program

Aardvark is a gap year program for those who want a year of INDEPENDENCE, growth, and life experience while having a semblance of a support system for help when necessary. Do not go on Aardvark expecting the program to coddle you to overcome every little challenge of living on your own. Aardvark provides housing in excellent locations, varying internships, and immerses you within a community of other aardvark students. In jerusalem, the apartments where just a 10 minute walk from the shuk and about 30 minutes from the Kotel. Tel Aviv apartments are in the heart of Florentine, surrounded by fun bars and amazing restaurants, not to mention a 10 minute walk from the beach and other fun spots in telaviv. Living in these apartments gives students a taste of living on their own after college. The apartments housed between 3-5 people and in living there, students had to learn to grocery shop, cook, clean up after themselves, and be a good roomate- all necessary and fundamental skills to know when living on your own. There are so many hidden benefits to taking a gap year and aardvark provides just enough independence to allow students to grow while also providing a community to make the transition into a new country easy. Many complained “i might as well have gone to israel alone and found my own internship and apartment” which is such bs because it is extremely scary moving to a new country alone with no community or friends! Living in an aardvark building with all other aardvark students made it extremely easy to make AMAZING and lifelong friendships who become a new family. Aardvark didnt organize many ice breakers or get to know you activities so it was really on the students to make plans and forge friendships, which also is initially a challenge after having friends essentially handed to you throughout high school. The counselors also live in the buildings and play more of a cool older sibling role than an actual authoritarian role. I must say Aardvark does an EXCELLENT job of hiring the coolest, friendliest, and most down to earth counselors who genuinely want to help and also be your best friend. You can reach out to them whenever necessary but they wont solve your problems for you- remember your an adult on a gap year! The madrichim will give students tools to figure out their own problems unless it is an emergency, but they are not someone to unload every little problem on. Lets be honest, the average person who can afford to go on these programs is likely very privileged and used to having someone take care of everything on their behalf, and so a gap year is the perfect time to learn independence. The internships where very hit or miss depending on how determined the students where to find a good internship and actually GO to their internship. Heres a secret, Aardvark is ALL ABOUT WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT. As a prospective journalism major at the university of maryland, i was very adamant on getting an internship in the journalism field that was in person and would provide hands on experience. I was lucky enough to cop an internship at i24NEWS, where i gained extremely valuable exposure to the field. I helped edit and produce news packages and even had some of my packages air on TV! Working in a newsroom environment and learning about the field through conversations with the journalists gave me incredible insight on what it would be like to pursue this career path. This was an incredible way to network within the field and i know i am always welcome back at i24NEWS if i ever find myself back in israel. I now have some experience under my belt before college and an incredible internship on my resume.
On the topic of Aardvarks actual programming, let me just say there wasn’t much. There are once a week trips planned by the program that where usually disorganized and honestly super boring. We didnt go on the classic birthright trips, they took us on ~different~ trips to help immerse us into israeli society- but most of these trips where very draining and seemed like a general waste or time. Many students skipped the tiyols because of the reputation tiyol Tuesday had built as being lame. It is important to note i went on aardvark during the peak of covid and a lot of their usual programming was canceled or restructured to fit the countries regulations. But i had heard from previous years rhat tiyol tuesdays where generally disorganized. The best trips i went on where spontaneous underplanned weekend getaways with my friends- but just a warning YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY out of your own pocket for these trips. Beware of the hidden extra 10k cost of aardvark from monthly spending on groceries, going out, eating, trips etc. Aardvark is a very expensive program in and of itself and for the future they should really consider including food stipens as part of the current cost as many would agree there is a severe discrepancy between what the program provides and the programs price. Besides that concern, overall i had the most amazing time on aardvark and i truly believe i grew as a person this past year because of the program i decided to take. If you are debating between year course and aardvark- go on aardvark. From what i can understand year course was more involved in their students lives- still not a lot but more so than aardvark- and it can hinder gap year growth- for starters the program purchased the students groceries on their behalf. But to each his own and their is a program out there for everyone.
I am grateful that i can reflect and realize i have come a long way from who i was pre gap year and am glad i was able to be a hot mess for a year before entering college. Aardvark is the BEST israel gap year and i would 10/10 recomend to anyone!!!

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

Incredible Program!!

i met so many great people, had great internships, traveled all over, and made the best memories that i will remember forever! i am so grateful for the independence i gained on this program and i recommend people who don’t need very much structure to go on aardvark versus other programs. aardvark helps participants gain experience both in the workforce through internships and allows students to receive college credits while taking classes. i went into college after with 22 credits and I am considered a second semester freshman!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
take advantage of every opportunity aardvark offers!
16 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Zach
3/10
No, I don't recommend this program

Not for people who value transparency or honesty

The only thing that I feel like I was able to appreciate as an outcome of this program was the kids I met, which I can get from any other gap year program. My biggest gripes stem from 2 main categories: Housing and Support and Communication from the program.

Housing:
The housing is very hit or miss. Some of the apartments are in very nice areas and are up to the standards one would expect. Other apartments, like mine, are on the border of a nice area and a very sketchy area. It's not uncommon for me to walk outside and see prostitutes and drug dealers on the side of the street if I am more than a 5-minute walk from my place. On top of the location, the apartment itself is very lacking. We were given the bare minimum in terms of cooking supplies, which we were told would be given to us. Our singular pan was so warped that it couldn't get hot because it didn't touch the stove. We have mold growing in our bathroom because the shower door doesn't stop water from coming out of the shower, frequently resulting in a flooded bathroom. Our building is also home to a drug-addicted squatter. It isn't uncommon to be walking down the stairs and happening upon a woman with all of her stuff covering the stairs, including numerous crack pipes and needles.

Support and Communication:
The support system for all of the kids on this program rests upon the madrichim; a group of staff members in their early 20s, charged with supporting a group of 15-20 kids. It's clear that the madrichim are doing as much as they can to support us, but they just don't have the capacity to deal with the issues of each one of us to the degree that we need. The one thing that they fall short on is their support towards us on the weekends. Each weekend, one madrich is "on-call" and they are tasked with dealing with any issues that come up over the weekend between all of the madrichim groups' kids. During this time period, it feels like the madrichim are trying to do as little work as possible. For instance, I had a sinus infection and asked for help with it on the weekend and I was told to wait until the weekend ended unless I needed to go to the ER. While I didn't need to go to the ER, I felt like dealing with an infection sooner rather than later is the right thing to do.
One time I was having an issue with my madricha about communication and when I talked to her about it, I was basically told that the problem was my attitude. When I brought this up with my community manager, I was told the exact same thing. I felt like I was powerless because every support system that was supposed to be in place for me, wasn't supportive.
The things that the program chooses to focus on don't make it feel like they care about the kids, rather they are only focusing on making money and bettering their public image. For instance, there was a week where I was really struggling with roommate issues as well as having trouble sleeping, which resulted in me missing a few Hebrew classes. All week I had been asking for help with the issues I was having but was met with no help at all. I was later called in for a meeting with my madricha, which I assumed would be when I was finally going to get the help I had been asking for. The meeting ended up being about my absences from class. When I explained that the other issues I was having were a large part of the cause for me missing class, it was ignored.

We are constantly being told to have open communication and to foster trust with the program, yet we are receiving nothing from their end except for lies or a lack of important information until the last minute.

The program always seems to be looking for ways to take our money as well. They offered extra overnight trips that we have to pay in cash for, they refused to replace the broken kitchen appliances we were given, forcing me to pay out of my pocket because I needed to eat, and they offer us nothing more than the bare minimum in terms of food. On the mandatory weekly trips, we have to buy our own food or bring our own lunch.

Overall, I would strongly urge anyone considering this program to reconsider. If you want anything besides the bare minimum, you have to take initiative and get it yourself. Getting help from Aardvark is very unlikely. I had a great time meeting new people, but every other aspect of this program is lacking to the extreme.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would choose a different Israel Gap Year program.
27 people found this review helpful.
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.

30 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.