Living and Studying at Birzeit
International students who come to study at Birzeit University will find that life on and off campus is intrinsically different from life in their own country, with regard to personal lifestyle, leisure activities and behavior patterns. These factors should be considered seriously and weighed against students’ personal motivations before deciding to study in the West Bank.
The life and freedom of Palestinians is severely affected by the daily realities of military occupation. Military-imposed measures include restrictions of movement within and/or entering or leaving the West Bank, frequent identity checks, imprisonment, and abuse of the local population.
International students are in general not subject to the same restrictions. Nevertheless, when living in the West Bank they may be affected indirectly by them, usually through Israeli curfews and closures of Palestinian areas.
For students, the university campus is the central place for socializing. International students may expect that most of their social life will be centered on campus, where they can join in activities and events such as music and dance performances, theater and films.
Palestinian society comprises a cultural variety, incorporating Muslims and Christians, villagers, townspeople, refugees and a wide spectrum of political groupings, all bringing with them their own cultural and political expectations.
To help introduce international students to some of the issues and conditions under which they will be living, Birzeit University requires PAS students to attend an orientation program during the week prior to the commencement of classes. The program covers housing and living conditions; rights as foreigners and students; transportation; health facilities; the academic calendar, courses offered and cultural issues.
Climate and Clothing
The climate between June and September is usually hot and dry, but even the hottest summer days can be cool in the evening. In general, casual clothing is appropriate for summer wear but shorts and halter or open tops for women and shorts for men are not suitable anywhere in the West Bank. During winter, from November to April, temperatures cool considerably and heavy rain-proof clothing is necessary and thermal underwear is useful. At night, temperatures can drop to below 0 degrees Celsius and snow may fall occasionally. Most apartments do not have central heating, but small space heaters (mostly gas) are available.
Visas and Study Permits
Depending upon nationality, foreigners are required either to obtain a visa to Israel in advance, or upon arrival at the airport. Check with your local Israeli Embassy. Generally, student visas are not granted to internationals who study at Birzeit. Students are advised to enter the country on a 3-month tourist visa which may need to be renewed during their stay.
Services and Facilities
Rented rooms are available in houses and apartments in Birzeit. Apartments and rooms may be shared with one or two other international students.
The Yousuf Ahmed Alghanim Library has an open-stack system with a collection of over 100,000 volumes, of which 40,579 are in Arabic, 71,884 in English, and 2,000 in other languages. The library follows the Library of Congress classification system. To browse the library website, log onto: http://home.birzeit.edu/library/
The Computer Center offers services to the university's administrative and academic sectors. A campus-wide network is now in place, and international students have access to e-mail and Internet. Two laboratories with forty PC stations are available to students.
The university medical clinic is available to all students free-of-charge during working hours. The medical staff arranges referrals to specialist services and practitioners if the need arises.
Birzeit University has one very large student cafeteria on its campus and four smaller cafeterias (in the science building, commerce building, arts building and nursing Building). Meals cost between 8-20 NIS and are not included in the fees. There are also many restaurants and cafes to choose from in nearby towns.
Books, articles and other materials required for university courses are sold at the bookstore. PAS books are sold at the PAS office in the beginning of the semester and after the placement test.
Following registration, students are provided with a Birzeit University identification card enabling them to use the library and other university facilities. A small photo should be provided to the PAS office in order to make the ID cards.