Named after Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, the University was established by the government of Israel to spearhead the development of Israel’s southern region. BGU has become the fastest-growing Israeli university with a student body of almost 20,000. BGU has become a dynamic center for research and education and has helped build bridges of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors through cooperation in science, research, and development.
For additional information, visit the Ben-Gurion University website.
The City of Be’er Sheva
Be’er Sheva is Israel’s fourth largest city, the capital of the Negev region and the major metropolis in southern Israel. As one of the oldest cities in the world, the city provides a unique juxtaposition of ‘old world’ Israel with ‘new world’ Israel. Today the city contains a diverse population of approximately 200,000, of which 10% are university students. Being one of the country’s most diverse cities, students can expect to hear Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian on the street before English, providing an ideal setting for students to learn and use Hebrew.
Be’er Sheva has been named Israel’s cybersecurity capital and is referred to as the country’s “Silicon Wadi.” As a sign of its growing importance in the country, a new high tech park is being built across the university campus which is bringing in companies from across the world that will partner with the university and its students. Be’er Sheva is easily accessible to other parts of the country with a train station on campus that takes students to Tel Aviv in 45-60 minutes.
Did you know…?
Remnants of a fortress and shards of the Bronze Age have been found near Be’er Sheva at Tell el-Sheba, the most ancient site of this city.
The program at Ben-Gurion University is for College credit only.
Minimum GPA Requirement: 3.0
Language Prerequisite: Previous study of Hebrew recommended, but not required.
Additional Course Pre-requisite(s): Successful completion of 1 Area Studies course in language or culture by the end of the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure is required.
Language of Instruction
Penn students who attend BGU are enrolled in the Overseas Student Program (OSP) for one semester or an academic year. Penn students must maintain a full course load while abroad and may only enroll in courses at the undergraduate level.
All Penn students studying at BGU are also required to attend a six-week Ulpan prior to the start of the semester. The Ulpan is an intensive Hebrew language course that allows students to begin or continue their level of Hebrew comprehension and to improve their understanding of the language. Students are placed in various levels, according to their fluency, as ascertained by a placement exam prior to the start of the Ulpan. Students are then required to continue their study of Hebrew at the appropriate level throughout the semester or year of study as one of their selected regular courses provided that they have not completed the Penn language requirement.
As on all Penn Abroad programs, grades are recorded on the Penn transcript and are calculated in the cumulative grade point average. The pass/fail option can be exercised according to the Penn on-campus policy of your home school. For more on Penn Abroad’s academic policies, click here.
Grades are reported to Penn on the Ben-Gurion University Scale and then converted to Penn grades according to the following grade equivalencies:
All Penn students are required to attend the orientation activities organized by Ben-Gurion University prior to the start of each semester. More information on BGU’s Overseas Student Program (OSP) orientation activities can be found here.
All OSP participants partake in an orientation weekend that provides important logistical information about what to expect from your time in Israel while highlighting and exposing you to the beauty of Southern Israel.
Intensive Hebrew Language Course
All Penn students studying at BGU are required to attend a six-week Ulpan prior to the start of the semester. The Ulpan is an intensive Hebrew language course that allows students to begin or continue their level of Hebrew comprehension and to improve their understanding of the language. Students are placed in various levels, according to their fluency, as ascertained by a placement exam prior to the start of the Ulpan. Students are then required to continue their study of Hebrew at the appropriate level throughout the semester or year of study as one of their selected regular courses.
More information about the mandatory intensive Hebrew language course can be found here.
Students can opt to take part in a for-credit research internship during their time at Ben-Gurion University. Students who choose this option take one less “normal” course during the semester and instead use that time to gain practical experience either working with a professor or academic department. These research internships are academic in nature and require students to submit coursework throughout the semester and meet with their coordinator. Students are required to coordinate in advance with the relevant Penn department to ensure credit will be received for the research internship. More information on the BGU research internship can be found here.
Students have the opportunity to volunteer with local organizations in Be'er Sheva and are highly encouraged to get involved with the wider community. Over two thirds of the student body at BGU is involved in some kind of community engagement and volunteering, which has become an important facet of student life at BGU. While volunteer work is not obligatory, it will allow students to get much more integrated into Israeli society and culture while helping out in the local communities. Examples include volunteering with Sudanese refugees, children, and the elderly. More information can be found here.
A highlight of BGU is the outstanding number of trips, tours and hikes organized specifically for program participants. Whether as part of a student's coursework or "just for fun," it is a priority of the program to expose students to the natural beauty of Israel's landscape – particularly the Negev region – and its cultures. In any given semester, students will travel to a variety of sites throughout Israel. All trips are held either on Fridays (one-day trips) or Friday-Saturday. More information can be found here.
Penn students studying at Ben-Gurion University have access to a wide range of student activities and associations. More information can be found here.
Participants must be willing to live under local conditions for students.
All Penn students are required to live in BGU student dormitories, which are conveniently located within a two minute walk to campus and directly across from the University sports facility and the Beer-Sheva train station. Unique among Israeli study abroad programs, international students are placed with Israeli roommates. Dormitories are divided into three or four-person apartments with each student receiving a single bedroom and sharing a kitchen, bathroom, and living room. Each student has a bed, desk/table, bookshelf, wardrobe/closet and chair. Dormitories are fully heated and air-conditioned. As there is no inclusive meal plan at BGU, many students find it convenient, as well as inexpensive, to cook meals in their apartments. Reasonably priced cafes and restaurants can also be found on and near campus. The dormitory complex features a mini-market, laundry facilities, 24-hour computer labs with internet access, a music room and student lounges for study/entertainment.
Information regarding accommodation can be found here.
Cost and Finance
Penn Abroad Financial Policies
Students are charged Penn tuition and academic fees for all Penn Abroad programs. Additional expenses will typically include items such as housing, visas, and airfare. Please see the program budget sheets below for more information. For more on Penn Abroad’s financial policies, click here.
Financial Aid and Study Abroad
In most cases, financial aid applies to Penn-approved programs. Student Financial Services reviews program budget sheets each semester to determine how to appropriately adjust your aid package. For more information on how Financial Aid will work during your semester abroad, click here.
David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarships for Study Abroad: Supports undergraduate study abroad focusing on geographical areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to US national security. (Excludes study in US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.) These US government grants entail a service obligation.
David Zeehandelaar Memorial Award: Provides support for independent travel or an independent project undertaken by an undergraduate student participating in the study abroad program between BGU and the University of Pennsylvania.
MASA Israel Scholarships: Provides financial support to Jewish young adults who study in Israel on long-term educational programs.
For information on the Penn Abroad application process, click here.
To open an application or learn more about the program, please click here to schedule an appointment with a Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager.