Estonian Student Makes Breakthrough Palestine Visit

Birzeit University seeks international collaboration in teaching and learning, but has been stymied by strict Israeli restrictions on who can enter Palestine. The inability to guarantee that students and academics will be able to participate in university study for any period of time has been an obstacle towards building an effective educational platform and the university.

This semester was different, however. In the second semester of the academic year 2016\2017, Birzeit University was finally able to officially host a foreign student at the university’s Architecture Department.

Martin Kukk from Estonia is an architecture student from the Estonian Academy of Arts and applied for an exchange opportunity to study in Palestine. “I heard about Birzeit University and I was excited to study in a place that I knew so little about. The political situation made me resist, but now that I have been studying and living with Palestine’s people, things are completely different.”


Kukk came to Palestine through the Erasmus + exchange program. Erasmus is one of the most successful EU programs. It is directed at higher education, promoting the exchange of students and professors between different countries and to and from the European Union.

Kukk expressed his enthusiasm to learn more from his professors and his colleagues at the Architecture Department. “The learning techniques and atmosphere is beyond what I expected,” he says.

Director of the Academic External Affairs Amir Khalil said, “Our relationship with Erasmus is strategic. It aims to support the development of the higher education system. Exchange of knowledge and education is essential for our educational process to improve.”

“Having foreign students in Birzeit University and Palestine in general can connect us with an ever-widening circle of their peers around the world. Exchange programs create opportunities to learn and to prosper. Exchanges for Palestinians mean a better understanding and empathy with our cause,” Khalil  concluded.

Kukk is now taking an Arabic language course through the Palestine and Arabic Program (PAS) in order to help him comprehend what he studies in class.