Letter from Daniella Berger, Fall 2016 recipient, Israel Government Fellow in Jerusalem
I am currently a little over half-way through my program, but already it feels like a different world. I am starting to feel like I have really built a new life and community in Israel. The first year after college is always hard. I have struggled with moving around apartments, finding new friends, and creating new hobbies and ways to spend my free time. But now, I feel a sort of satisfaction in where I am both at my internship, and also in general in Israel.
It is a fitting time to reflect on my internship so far, after completing a big conference last week. My department organized an international conference on diaspora affairs with the Jewish Agency, and the office of the Speaker of the Knesset. On the part of the Foreign Ministry, however, I was the main point person responsible. The weeks leading up to the conference were definitely stressful, but I felt a strong sense of pride and accomplishment at the end. I appreciated the amount of responsibility that my bosses put in my, with confidence that I would make the conference successful. And I had the wonderful experience of working with various other professionals in an equal way.
I think this conference also represents a good benchmark for where I am in my internship. At the beginning, of course, there was a steep learning curve. I didn’t know how things worked in the ministry, and I had to make sure to follow instructions and learn as I went. Now, however, as I have become more familiar with my working environment and the role of my department, I have the opportunity to step up and take charge of projects on my own. In previous internships that I have had, they were shorter term and I did not often get to do especially in-depth work. It was much more of an “internship”. Now, I feel like I am gaining real life work experience, and I am treated as a full time member of the staff.
In addition, after previously working in the Knesset, it is definitely enlightening and interesting to learn about another branch of Israel’s government. Working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives me the opportunity for real understanding of the way that every day government work occurs in Israel, and I can speak from experience in the future. My appreciation for the hard work of Israel’s diplomats has grown exponentially, and I have gained a greater understanding of the complicated diplomacy that Israel engages in around the world.
I feel a true sense of achievement at this point in the year. First, I feel a sense of personal achievement in my relationships with friends, colleagues, and myself as a person; and career achievement in the experience and knowledge I have gained so far at my internship. Starting over is never easy, and doing so in another country adds an extra challenge. But I am excited about how I have grown so far, and I am excited to see where it will take me in the next few months
Letter from Sophia Lloyd-Thomas, Fall 2016 recipient, Tel Aviv University
January was a big month of change for me during my year abroad at Tel Aviv University. January fifth marked the end of the fall semester, and just twenty days later, the spring semester students arrived just in time to begin ulpan. Of course it was sad to say goodbye to all of the students who were only here for the fall semester, but watching them have to leave so soon after they’d arrived has made me extra confident in my decision to stay here at TAU for the entire year, and extra grateful for the support from AZM to make this entire year possible.
Because I’ve been here since last June and won’t be leaving until next June, I’m able to really experience everything Tel Aviv, and Israel, have to offer. Having arrived here in the middle of the boiling summer, I can appreciate January’s chilly, rainy days sitting in a cafe sipping sachlab. And, because I now know of the Israeli practice of not heating hallways or bathrooms, I will definitely appreciate those endless sunny days and afternoons of walking to the beach after class when they start to come around again in just a few weeks. Because I’m here for a year, I will have experienced Rosh HaShanah, Purim, and Passover inthe land in which they’re meant to be celebrated. I’ll see the leaves change again and, in a few months, forget that there even is such a thing as rain in Israel. Because I’m here for the whole year, I’ll know my professors doubly as well as I would have had I’d been here just a semester.
I’ll know the ins and outs of campus almost as well as I know my campus back home. Maybe at the end of it all, I won’t even have to use Moovit on my phone to look up which bus to take where. Because I’m here for a year, I have a chance at really living in Israel as a student, not just as a tourist.
I’m loving being able to show my new friends around their new city, helping them get their Rar Kav bus passes in order and navigate their way to the Shuk HaCarmel. As I see my friend starting their very first ulpan, I am so excited for them. I think back to when I first came to Israel and Hebrew letters looked like Greek, and there was no way I could even tell the difference between Arabic and Hebrew. Now all of these things seem so obvious to me, and being able to watch my friends discover this knowledge for themselves is an incredible experience that not only makes me nostalgic for those goofy intro-level dialogues about going to the store or the movies, but also makes me grateful to have had such supportive teachers and classes along the way to welcome me into the language of my people.
I value my Hebrew too much to let it get too rusty, as I see it as my main way of connecting with my Judaism and with Israel. This desire to always be able to communicate with Jews around the world and throughout history, I hope, will motivate me to take care of my Hebrew, to keep it up and continue practicing, as tough as that may be when I return home to the U.S. this summer.
But until then, I’m going to cherish every moment I have left in Israel. The days are warming every so slightly now, and I could not be more excited for another great semester in the country that I love!