Living and Working in the West Bank: An Incredible Opprotunity Past Review

By (Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University) for

George Mason University: Israel and Palestine - Internships

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I would give ten stars to this program if I could! This experience really opened my eyes and changed my perceptions and opinions on a lot of things- about the conflict, about the region, about myself. The day-to-day experiences were really the best to learn from. One day I would be working on a grant proposal for my internship and meet friends for coffee when I got off, and the next I would sleep in on the weekend and go to a wedding with my host family, and the day after I might take a trip to Jerusalem to hang around the Old City. Because the majority of our trip was spent outside of a group setting, we had the freedom to go where we wanted and see what we wanted as long as we stayed inside the host country. Absolutely incredible.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The program was divided into two phases- the first was a one-week academic seminar, and the second was working with our internship program. We were required to keep a blog during our entire trip with three lengthier posts, as well as write a substantial research paper after we returned to the states. The knowledge we gained from the seminar week is unmatchable to anything a student can learn in the United States from the media or a textbook, and the grading system was very fair and based both on academics and participation.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our program was made up of less than twenty students, which created a very collaborative learning experience where we were free to share our opinions and questions. My expectations were met above and beyond what I had hoped for; I would recommend this program to anyone interested in the region or conflict. Once we were in the host country and on our own during the internships, students needed to be highly self-sufficient, although help was always available if needed.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was the best experience I took away with me from the program. The program is divided into different cities/towns, and multiple students live and work in each location. Students in Tel Aviv, for instance, stayed in an apartment, while others, like those in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, stayed with host families. My host family's house was very close to my work, and was easily accessible walking or taking a short public taxi ride. I felt completely safe in the area I lived in.

* Food:

Palestinian food is delicious, and I encourage anyone who goes to the area to try as many different things as possible. While they offer quasi-American food, like pizza or hamburgers, traditional foods are the most satisfying. Depending on where you live, there can be roads lined with cafes and small restaurants. Portions are big and the bill is cheap- eat up!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Our program was based initially in Jerusalem, and then we reconvened in Tel Aviv after our internship period. During our internship period we were free to travel inside Israel or the West Bank as much as we liked, so many students got the opportunity to see most of Israel and the West Bank as well as visit each other and see the daily life in another city. There were many cultural events I got to be a part of in Ramallah and Jerusalem, including film screenings, concerts, as well as events hosted by the United Nations or festivals hosted by Berzeit University. It was a great opportunity to not only immerse oneself in the cultural aspects of the region, but also to meet and befriend locals. Our program hosted two organized weekend trips, the first to Jordan where we visited Petra, and the second to Northern Israel, where we visited the Golan region and the Sea of Galilee.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I didn't need any specific vaccines for this program, nor did I run into any health problems. As long as I abides by the cultural expectations, such as moderately conservative dress for women (most of the time I wore jeans and a t-shirt), I wasn't treated any differently than anyone else unless it was because I was American. There were many nights where I would walk alone through the streets of Ramallah to get back to my host family's house, and never once did I feel unsafe.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)


If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Apartment
  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Seminar experience
  • Internship placements
  • Independent time for travel, events, etc
* What could be improved?
  • More information (before the program leaves) regarding Israeli security through checkpoints and airports, especially if the student is living in the West Bank
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Any student that is interested in the politics and challenges facing the Middle East or the Arab-Israeli conflict would absolutely love this program. While there is a group component, it only lasts for about a week. Anyone considering this trip should be able to work independently (although you will never be the only student living in your host city, and you will see them pretty regularly) and be comfortable having to rely on yourself rather than other people. I was incredibly nervous at first, especially not knowing a ton of Arabic, to have to find my way around the city by myself, but it turned out to be a huge growing experience for me.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Arab-Israeli Conflict

Course Department: HIST461
Instructor: Dr. Yehuda Lukacs
Instruction Language: English
Comments: While we did not attend actual classes during our trip, we received up to three classes' worth of credits. We fulfilled the class requirements through the one-week seminar, where we met with various government officials and NGO representatives from both sides. We also visited various political and memorial sites, such as Yad Vashem. Dr. Lukacs, who teaches the class at Mason, was also our faculty advisory for the program, and he is a wealth of information. While we were encouraged to form and challenge our own opinions, he was always available to answer our questions or provide us with background knowledge surrounding our event or lecture for the day.
Credit Transfer Issues: Nope! All three courses I gained credit for abroad apply to my major; none went as electives.