Alumni of the Month
Alumni of the month – Gina Saben
Hi everyone! I’m Gina and I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I went on Aardvark in 2015 for the Spring semester and it was probably the best time of my life. I found out about the program almost by accident when I happened to notice the Aardvark stall at a Jewish gap year program expo. I was immediately drawn to Aardvark as it seemed to be a program that was a little bit unique with lots of freedom and independence. I had no expectations whatsoever, and I was surprised that I actually gained a lot from it (not just weight LOL). The program enabled us to actually live in Israel which was extremely special – other Israel trips I’ve been on always made me feel like a tourist. But on Aardvark, we were locals, completely immersed in the Israeli culture. Not only did we get to live in Israel but we got to live the “adult” experience. Being 18 years old at the time and living with my parents, I hadn’t realised what a sheltered existence I had, and Aardvark showed me what it was like to cook, clean and look after myself properly. To me, gaining a newfound independence was invaluable, and now moving out of home does not seem so scary. Another great outcome of going on Aardvark was creating lifelong friendships with people from all over the world – even three years later I’m still in contact with many of my Aardvark friends. Being able to cultivate friendships over the course of many months allowed us to form really genuine and deep connections. Let’s not forget all the fun stuff – the nights out, the tiyuls, celebrating festivals such as Purim and Yom Haatzmaut dancing on the streets… these are the memories I’ll cherish forever.
My life post-Aardvark consists of working at a well-known insurance broker and studying full time, a double degree in Arts and Business. I think Aardvark partially influenced my decision to study Business as I developed a greater understanding of the field through Aardvark’s Entrepreneurship Add-on. I feel that thanks to Aardvark I’ve grown as a person, understood my identity better and been able to overcome challenges more easily. My advice to those who are considering the program – just do it! Embrace the challenge, get out of your comfort zone and I promise it’ll be soooo worth it.