gap year in israel

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Hi, my name is Alexa Narunsky and I am from Sydney, Australia. During Aardvark’s spring semester, I was lucky enough to live in Florentine, Tel Aviv and now, in the new summer semester, I am able to stay another 2 and a half months! In February 2021, I will attend the University of Technology in Sydney and study for a Bachelor of Nursing and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation, however, my plans until then are not set in stone.

Throughout high school, I always knew I wanted to take a gap year, however I never knew which path to take. For a few years, I was hesitant to look into Israel programs as I wanted to travel independently, but after seeing the amazing options available, I decided to reconsider Israel as a destination for the year. While exploring the available programs, I came across Aardvark Israel at a Gap Year Fair that my school organised for year 12 students. The conditions I had was a program that was 5 months or less, included lots of travelling and the option to volunteer on the ambulances with Magen David Adom, and Aardvark perfectly fit this.

Ironically, all of that conditions that I had initially set in place for a gap year have since been drastically altered due to Covid-19. I will now be in Israel for 8 months rather than 5, travelling has been limited and I only experienced working for Magen David Adom for a month instead of three. However, this has been a blessing in disguise as it has taught me to be more adaptable, go with the flow and become more independent both mentally and physically.

Aardvark also gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Ethiopia. Looking back, I feel very lucky that I chose to go, as it was the only international trip to go ahead, with the Italy, Poland and Nepal trips being cancelled due to Covid-19. The highlight of the trip was visiting a synagogue in the city of Gondar where we sang songs with the Bnei Akiva students aged 5-18. This was surreal as the songs we sang were ones that I sang throughout school in my own Jewish community.

At the beginning of the program, I interned at an Israeli primary school teaching children in years 1-6 English. I would take children out of their classroom 1 or 2 and a time and talk with them, fill out workbooks and play games in English. I did this for around a month. I am very grateful to have had this opportunity as I was able to make many connections with Israeli children, experience working in a school and improve my Hebrew.

After working at the school, I started volunteering on the ambulances with Magen David Adom. Without a doubt, Magen David Adom was one of the most valuable and best experiences of my life. From being present at the birth of a baby to helping victims of a motor vehicle accident, I enjoyed every second. During this time, I thoroughly improved my Hebrew and made lifelong friends from both Israel and abroad. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, overseas volunteers, for our own safety, are no longer allowed to volunteer; however, I will forever cherish this time in my life.

One aspect of Aardvark that I didn’t initially realise would be so important and influential to me is meeting people from around the world that I will forever be connected to. The reality that wherever I go in the world I will have a place to stay is crazy and I am so lucky to have these opportunities. The unique and loving friendships from both North and South America, Europe and South Africa will be cherished for the rest of my life.

My advice to potential gap year students is to be open-minded. Before taking a gap year I was set on the idea of my future in Sydney; however, living on my own halfway across the world and making international friends has shown me that there are more paths in life than just continuing in my hometown. I’ve learnt so much about different cultures and thus have become open-minded to living my life in a culture different to my own.