We were on the Aardvark program from 2012-2013 and we lived in Jerusalem first and then Tel Aviv. Mark participated in the entrepreneurial program and went on many of the Aardvark-led international trips. After leaving the program, we went on to live in Tacoma, WA and both graduated from the University of Puget Sound. We got married in June of 2017 and even had a few fellow Aardvark alums there to celebrate with us. Mark is currently a software engineer and Lauren is working at a CPA firm. We are living outside of San Francisco with our two kitties.
Mark: I found the program because I knew I wanted to take a gap year after high school. I was drained and not ready to go to college so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to recuperate as well as get ready for the following 4 years. I am so happy that I did the program because other than meeting my wife, I learned a lot about being flexible, living in an entirely different environment, and getting out of my comfort zone. I think the program prepared me very well for going to college and excelling in my personal life and my school work. I have met lifelong friends on Aardvark that I still keep in touch with, many years after the program.
Lauren: I found Aardvark at the last minute, I actually decided to go on a gap year only a couple of weeks before all the programs started for the year. I had been at the University of Colorado for one year and really unhappy there and unsure what to do next, so I decided Aardvark was the answer. Growing up in a small town in Colorado, I really struggled at first with the culture shock and not understanding the language. But thanks to the friends I made and the help everyone at Aardvark provided, things got easier and by the time the program was over I was so devastated to leave. Our program led to a ton of positive changes for me: I became more independent, I learned to be more open-minded, and I pushed myself out of my comfort zone more than ever before. It also opened my world up to Judaism in a way that has still impacted my faith today. Obviously meeting Mark was the biggest highlight of the program for me. The first time I met he was wearing an Aardvark shirt standing in the middle of a creek helping people across- I actually thought he was a madrikh! I loved exploring new places with him, cooking new things, and especially doing some of our favorite shabbat rituals (all things we still continue today).