Tel Aviv University

Jonathan B '11

University:
Tel Aviv University
Study Period:
Fall 2010/2011 (10th Oct 2010 - 14th Jan 2011)
Jonathan handstand

Before going to Tel Aviv in July 2010 I had to deal with some considerable organisational issues. Firstly, I had to apply for the IS:link student exchange programme, which, at that time, had just been introduced as a student exchange network for Information Systems students by the chair of Prof. Ulrich Frank of my home university in Essen. Luckily, application and enrolment was rather uncomplicated and I could turn my attention to other important issues, like visa and finding an accommodation in Tel Aviv. As I said, IS:link was still in its founding phase at that time. Therefore, organisation was sometimes not that easy for me. However, due to being one of the pioneers in the IS:link program, many experiences were even more intensive. Furthermore, I was not the only student going from Essen to Tel Aviv in the summer of 2010 (see our group picture below).

The arrival in Tel Aviv

Already on the day of my arrival I became convinced that Tel Aviv was the right place for my semester abroad, despite of the alternatives and some detractors. On the one side I was excited to experiencing the cultural and, of course, climatic differences, which contribute to making the country of Israel and especially Tel Aviv a unique and outstanding place (see video below for a better impression of Tel Aviv). On the other side I really looked forward to participating in the international MBA programme of the Tel Aviv University (the Sofaer international MBA), which enjoys a very good reputation. During my semester abroad these expectations were completely fulfilled. The initial communication problems occurring in my first email contacts with the university immediately vanished as I quickly embraced the local IS:link coordinators Sharon Shaked and Sivan Iahav, who really put much effort into welcoming us in Tel Aviv and helping us with getting along in the first days, despite the fact that we arrived during the semester break in order to participate in a Hebrew language course, which took place two months before the start of the semester. At the beginning of the actual semester in September, we were introduced to the university by means of an orientation course, where we learned about the Israeli culture and got to know the 28 other foreign students from all over the world. Together with them and the fellow international MBA students we had a really great time that I absolutely do not want to miss. Furthermore, we established a lot of interesting contacts within this group, which, in general, might be very useful for everyone close to graduation and considering working abroad. Therefore, I recommend to everybody studying Information Systems or economics to participate in an international MBA programme.

Unique experiences

Visiting beautiful cities and places like Haifa, Jerusalem (see video below), the Golan Heights and the Red Sea in the south of Israel certainly proved to be outstanding experiences of my semester abroad. Furthermore, the high commitment to the buddy system at the University of Tel Aviv allowed me to celebrate Rosh HaShana (the Jewish New Year) with a Jewish family and to attend a Jewish wedding. Additionally, the university organised many interesting excursions, e.g. to the Tel Aviv exchange and to some start-up enterprises. The high quality of the visiting lectures of the MBA programme was also remarkable, sometimes the lecturers even came from the American Ivy League Universities: In any case, they were really motivated and presented the learning matter in an exciting way.

The life in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is located directly at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and with a little bit of luck you may find a flat with a beautiful view on the sea, also not far from Hayarkon Park and the university. The Hebrew language was rather difficult to learn, especially reading and writing. The language course I already mentioned was really good, yet very costly and not absolutely necessary as everybody in Israel usually speaks several languages and English is very well understood. Furthermore, you have to be aware of the fact that everything is much more expensive in Tel Aviv then in Germany, but you can buy something 24/7 in return (except for Shabbat, which begins Friday evening and ends 25 hours later).

Accommodation

A room in a flat share located near the beach or in one of “hip” quarters is available for about 400 – 500€ per month. However, the high price does not indicate a high comfort. A basic part of every flat is an air conditioner, which is essential in summer as well as in winter, as the insulation of the buildings is usually not very good. Anyhow, looking for a rom is quiet easy when you are in Tel Aviv. However, looking for a flat when still in Germany was nearly impossible, and it only worked for me because I knew someone who was in Tel Aviv at that time. Alternatively, you may consult the online platform Craigslist, which is the only English web platform where rooms in Tel Aviv are offered. When looking for an accommodation, you should be aware, that the whole process is not as well-regulated as in Germany: If you like a room, you just take it right away. Furthermore, rental agreements rarely incorporate notice periods, making the whole process very flexible.

Cost of living

Cost of living is very high in Tel Aviv. You should calculate with at least 1000€ per month (including rent, mobile phone, going out, etc.). Of course, there is no upper boundary. For instance, beer prices are twice as high as in Germany and a beer in a restaurant or a bar costs approximately 5€. Regarding the local products, which are quite rare as much of the products available are imported, you also do not always know what they are comprised of. In return, the traditional products such as Humus (see picture below), Falafel, Shawama are relatively cheap (about 3-4€).

Politics

I rarely noticed the political problems of the Middle East in the daily life, although I knew that some suicide bombings took place on my regular bus line, as well as in my favourite café around the corner. In order to understand the conflict you certainly have to dive deep into the history and visit some place. Moreover, you have to talk to the people (Israelis as well as Palestinians). For example, I made friends during a stay in the West Bank, which I did not expect beforehand. In my opinion, it is a pity that many Israelis do not know what really goes on behind the wall separating Israel from the West Bank – many regard this place as another country, a war zone.

For me, the proximity of Egypt and Jordan also brought some advantages, as you are able to quickly pay a visit to these countries, although the conflicts and demonstrations in the Arabian World became an important topic in Israel at the end of my semester. Despite getting used to the situation in Israel, these events reminded me of living in one of the world’s most explosive trouble spots and they occurred really without expecting it. Nevertheless, you can learn many things from observing these types of events: The behaviour of the press and the governments in North Africa and the Middle East and comparing it to the news coverage in the European Press, with the latter surely not covering everything.

University of Tel Aviv

As I already mentioned, the university is very well equipped and the professors work on an international level, which promotes exciting discussions. The integration of foreign students was splendid and the IS:link coordinators were very helpful. Part of the good integration is based on a strong network within the university: For instance, the university established a buddy system especially for taking care of exchange students and integrating them through various activities or assigning you with an “Interpeer” (which is the name of the buddy programme for MBA students). For instance, the Interpeer programme provided me with the opportunity to celebrate Rosh Hashana and a Jewish wedding.

However, there is a little downside for Information Systems students: Despite the lectures being very interesting and the lecturers being internationally renowned, there are only a few dedicated Information Systems lectures, which focus mainly on management. You should consider this before going to Tel Aviv. My favourite lecture was “Entrepreneurship in Health Care Innovations”. In this lecture, we had to apply what we had learned by inventing and setting up an innovate business concept in the area of health care and presenting our concept in the end.     

The character of the educational system I experienced in the MBA programme is much more practical and there is less theoretical knowledge that is tested in exams (of course, there are also some exceptions). Additionally, many students in the MBA programme had practical experiences, which often initiated interesting discussions. Apart from that, you should keep in mind that the Israeli way of working is different and that especially in the part-time MBA many are working fulltime. Therefore, when assigned to a project work at the university, you will often be confronted with a lack of time. But I guess that this is a typical intercultural experience and will certainly help you to improve your project management skills.

My Résumé

The experience of studying abroad in an international country like Israel, especially in the city of Tel Aviv, has shaped me very strongly. From the many things that I will surely remember the most remarkable ones are the excessive enthusiasm for sports I witnessed on beaches and in parks, the open-mindness towards other cultures and the view behind the scenes of the Middle East conflict. Another remarkable thing is the new perspective I developed on Germany. This perspective begins to sharpen when you stay abroad for a longer period of time.

Furthermore, I made many international friendships and acquaintances, not least because of the many events organised by the university, but also because of my willingness to travel around and a necessary openness towards new people.

In summary, I enjoyed a successful the semester abroad, whereupon I want to thank IS:link for the cooperation and DAAD for the scholarship.

Hence, if you are culturally interested or even looking for adventures, study abroad! 

(Finally, a picture of all our group of students that went from Essen to Tel Aviv in the summer of 2010)

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