Why do so many Israelis go abroad to study?

Caroline Haïat

Digital Journalist | @carolinehaiat

7 min read
Students circulate in a courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France,  April 24, 2006.
THOMAS COEX / AFPStudents circulate in a courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, April 24, 2006.

More than 20,000 Israelis are currently taking university courses abroad

Every year, thousands of Israelis pack their suitcases to go abroad to study or start a professional career.

According to a 2021 report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States, Germany, Romania and Moldova are among the most popular destinations for Israeli students.

More than 20,000 of them are currently taking a university course abroad, out of more than 300,000 enrolled in universities in the Jewish state. But why do they choose to obtain a diploma far from their native land? i24NEWS talked to those who left everything to live this experience.

Noa Krotman, a 24-year-old Israeli, chose to study in Milan, the world capital of design. She noted that the approach to this course abroad is different and broader than that offered in the Jewish state. She also shared that once back in Israel, obtaining an internship and then a job is easier when you have this cultural baggage imported from abroad.

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For most Israelis, as for any young person in the world, the desire for emancipation, new encounters and life experiences, far from the family cocoon, motivates this desire to go abroad.

"My parents lived in New York for a year when they were my age. I grew up with the stories of their adventures and I was always fascinated by the idea of ​​living in another country. When I knew that I wanted to study interior design, it was clear that for such a competitive field, I had to study in a place that would give me advantages, so I went to Milan, to a private university", Krotman said.

She explained that this decision also proved that she could take care of herself in any situation.

"Being away from my family and friends allowed me to learn a lot about my personal abilities. At my age, I have already led a Passover seder, I had to go to the hospital and manage a lot of things alone, without a safety net, it gave me great self-confidence," Krotman said.

In October, Noa will begin her third and final year of studies in Italy.

"It's an incredible experience! I study in an international program, which allows me to be in contact with people who come from all over the world. My English has also improved considerably," she added.

For Gil Ezovi, who did his MBA (master's degree in management and business administration) for two years at the prestigious Esade University in Barcelona, Spain, ​​one of the most renowned in the world, the objective was to later find a job in Europe. 

"Several members of my family have studied abroad and I always wanted to take the plunge, then I came to a time in my life when I needed a change and I took the opportunity. I have European nationality so it was easier to go there," he said.

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Arriving in Spain at the age of 34, Gil had already worked in Israel before resuming his studies.

"It was a real break for two years from professional life because I was able to fully concentrate on my studies and enjoy time with my friends. In my class there were 180 people from countries where I had never been and it gave me the opportunity to discover different people, with lifestyles and ideas that were unknown to me before. They are now my friends for life," he said.

Ezovi said his experience abroad gave him professional and personal perspectives that Israelis can't get if they study at home with fellow students who have a similar life journey.

After graduation, he was recruited in Germany to a technology company. The young man noted that the attractive salary is one of the main reasons that motivates Israelis to work abroad.

"When you invest in an MBA which is very expensive (around $70,000 in Europe) it is above all to find a job outside Israel, which will be very well paid. Abroad, the advantage is that these diplomas are recognized everywhere, the network at the university also helps us to be recruited and the plurality of cultures brings real added value to companies," said Gil.

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Israeli students have this level of mobility in particular thanks to the Erasmus university exchange program, created in 1987. It has been a great success with young people from the 33 member countries.

Around 12 million people have already benefited from Erasmus. Since 2015, 6,582 students and teachers have come to Israel through the Erasmus+ agency.

"Studies are much cheaper and of a better quality" in Europe, "Igor Kruter, an Israeli who studied for five years at the Artez art academy in the Netherlands, said.

"It was my dream to study in Holland, it's a culture I feel very close to.”

But Israel can also prove to be highly attractive to foreigners. The University of Tel-Aviv, for example, welcomes 2,000 students from all over the world each year.

Last month, the Council for Higher Education announced that it would close American medical programs at Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University and the Technion in order to replace the 130 foreign students with the local ones to fight the shortage of Israeli doctors.

Ezovi argues that, on the contrary, there is not much competition between Israelis and foreigners in Israel.

"I think closing these schools to foreigners is a mistake because all the analyses show that when there is diversity, the results are better. Israel has no reason to do such a thing and if they do, it would be a blow to the quality of studies and results," he underlined, adding that there are few full-time masters programs in Israel.


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According to Ezovi, more employees from abroad should be recruited in Israel to gradually import the European model into Israeli companies. The majority of Israeli medical students are notably forced to study abroad due to a lack of space within the establishments.

According to OECD data, 60 percent of students leaving the country are Israeli Arabs. Their favorite places are the West Bank, Jordan, Romania and Ukraine.

However, many initiatives are in place to help foreign students come to Israel, such as the Minhal Hastudentim, a branch of the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption, the most important official body that establishes a link between student immigrants and the higher education system in Israel.

Caroline Haïat is a journalist for the French site of i24NEWS

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