Enterprising and progressive students from around the world with an eye to international affairs thrive at Tel Aviv University, the biggest in Israel and the largest Jewish higher learning institute in the world.
Of particular relevance to those looking to study conflict resolution, diplomacy and the Middle East peace process, Tel Aviv University offers a Master’s of Political Science in Security and Diplomacy. The one-year program is taught by esteemed faculty members who are experts in their fields. It incorporates theory, practice and engagement with ambassadors and diplomats in the curriculum, and students will find themselves tapped into Israel’s political, artistic and economic industries.
Master’s candidates in the Security and Diplomacy program participate in weekly field trips that include visits to Israel’s border and to government offices, where they can meet with current security professionals who are knowledgeable about the Israeli and international peace and security situations. Previous field trips have included visits to the borders with Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The weekly workshops are worth course credit, and give students a unique opportunity to pick the brains of security professionals about their work, and about getting started in the field.
The course also includes an ambassador forum, with a number of international ambassadors to Israel, as well as networking opportunities with alumni and field professionals.
The university maintains an institution-wide emphasis on social well-being and global peace. As Israel is a key player in international relations, the Tel Aviv University program offers an opportunity to gain in-depth understanding of global affairs in real time.
The school encourages applications from international students, and offers a number of support programs and perks to those traveling from their native countries to study in Israel. A buddy system, “created to unite all of TAU’s international programs and give the foreign students a connection to the country and community,” pairs international and native students, allowing foreigners to become acquainted with their Israeli classmates and have a resource as they acclimate to their new surroundings. All students have access to a campus medical clinic, free legal advice, free WiFi and discounts on parking, dining and concerts held on campus.
Nezka Figelj from Slovenia, who is studying for her master’s degree at Tel Aviv, praised the school’s curriculum and the extensive knowledge she has gained in both theoretical and practical aspects.
The prominent professors in the program provided historical, political, security and legal knowledge about the political and humanitarian crises in the Middle East, and encouraged me to come up with potential resolutions to the conflict. I’m currently in the process of writing my thesis for the completion of the Master’s Degree; the proposed topic is ‘The influence of the Israeli army on different groups in the Israeli society and their contribution to the political decision making in Israel’.
The master’s thesis is an optional part of the course, a prestigious undertaking that requires an additional semester in the program. Only students who meet specific academic requirements at the end of the first semester can participate in the thesis program. Those who choose to enroll in the thesis project devise a focus for their work, and then meet with a faculty member who specializes in that field to gain approval before going ahead with it.
According to Figelj, the program prepares students for careers in a number of fields, including government, NGOs, business and journalism. Figelj has secured an internship at the Slovenian embassy in Tel Aviv. Security and Diplomacy courses are typically scheduled with internships in mind, so students can be in class Monday through Thursday, with all of Friday open to dedicate to working in the field.
“I can recommend the program to everyone who is interested in and has some background in international relations in the Middle East, especially as they are oriented toward the United States and Europe,” Figelj said.
Students are encouraged to develop creative solutions to the crises plaguing the Middle East, working from what they learn in their courses and their own knowledge and comprehension.
Supplemental learning experiences abound here, with regular lectures held in English and Hebrew on a range of subjects, that include the political to the psychological.
The quality of life at TAU extends beyond the academic. Extracurricular activities such as Krav maga, wall climbing, belly dancing, Zumba, yoga and other fitness classes allow students to maintain a solid work-life balance while completing the rigors of the one-year program. The school’s Thursday on Campus program offers weekly entertainment and activities that include film screenings, musical performances, art exhibitions and a farmer’s market. Off campus, Tel Aviv boasts a bustling social scene and international students in particular can take in Israeli culture and enjoy the city sights as part of their year in the country.