This semester was a pretty small program size but in it I witnessed two main types of people. There were those who really took advantage of their time here and those who did not so much. Those who really got out there, found what they wanted to do, and integrated themselves in the community all had great reviews and several of them decided to stay into the spring. But sadly, there were also those who stayed only in the neighborhood of the campus and rarely got out except on the NYU organized trips and had (believe it or not) a subpar experience, and ended up really not enjoying their time so much.
I also noticed that this program tended to cater more towards these type of people and really made it a priority to get people out and seeing Israel–but under their supervision. It became difficult for me because I felt always expected to join on trips and NYU TA activities when often I had conflicting plans with the Israeli friends and community I had made outside of the program. I also would have prefered living off campus to really experience what it is like to live independently in a new place, although NYU has policies against this. Going into the program I wish someone would have told me the extent to which NYU expects your participation in their rigorous activity schedule and the program in general. Had I known this, I likely would’ve taken a gap year and lived independently in Israel rather than study abroad.
I would recommend this study-abroad site if it is your first time traveling independently and feel you need the comfort and stability that the site provides. If you are comfortable being independent, taking risks, and really integrating yourself in the new place you are living, then you might find study abroad frustrating.
None of this is to say that I didn’t have an amazing experience here, but I would have wished to have the degree of independence from NYU in Israel that I enjoy in New York. The first recommendation I have if you are coming to Israel, is to learn some basic conversational skills in Hebrew. People who spoke even a little Hebrew prior, were really grateful for it. The second recommendation I have is to get out and get lost! Adventure around, see new things, meet new people! Befriending local people is one of the most valuable things you can do. You can live and speak with Americans in America but take advantage of your new geography to learn more about the local people. These are all general bits advice that I think hold true for all travel, but Israel has so much interesting and complex history and you MUST take advantage of your time hear to meet many different types of people and learn as many different narratives as you can.
The other piece of advice I have is to take as few classes as possible. Then fill that time! Fill it to the brim! Try different things, travel within and outside of your county. For me, study abroad was most special in that it gave me a reason to live in and explore a fascinating place and definitely not to sit around all day and do homework.