Spotlight on Students
Student of the Week – Carmel Madadshahi
Hi! My name is Carmel Madadshahi from Los Angeles California!
It’s too easy to take the paved path in life. At least that’s what I thought when I chose to take a gap year two years ago. SAT’s and college applications, Bachelors and Masters Degrees, PhDs to my perfect dream job…it all seemed like boxes to check off on some list labeled “success” written by someone else. Coming from my not so small hometown of Los Angeles, where it seemed as if everyone were set on their future, my doubt grew even more and with that I turned away from the expected and decided to dictate my own path.
While searching for my ideal gap year, I discovered Aardvark Israel, a perfect combination of learning, hands-on internship experience, and the freedom to discover the beautiful land I now call home. For the past two and a half months, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to live in the heart of Tel Aviv (next semester in Jerusalem!) with friends from all corners of the Earth. Each one of us come from different backgrounds, with different memories and journeys, yet we are all experiencing the adventure of living in this amazing country together. I have learned things about myself that only come with stepping out of my comfort zone and have surrounded myself with people who push me to the best version of myself. My internship work with fashion photographer Merav Ben-Loulou has been a highlight, providing experience in a work field I can apply to my future as well as classes during the morning and afternoon that further my knowledge of Israel and its multifaceted society.
After waiting so long for the moment that would give me the direction that I have longed for, I have discovered that it’s through the uncertainty we experience where we grow the most. Our challenges and doubts are normal and natural and just one of the many loops on the rollercoaster ride we call life. Yet, it is essential to realize that it is how we navigate the ups and downs and stop to notice the drops that will inevitably impact us the most.
My experience in Israel has not been without its challenges. It’s not easy to pick up your life and move across the world, but it is those difficulties that have caused me to grow the most. The way we interact with the people around us, the times we choose positivity over negativity, the way we handle our frustrations, all say a lot about who we are in the moment and what we are intended to be. We are all constantly growing and changing. It is in making those choices when we can clear the confusion a little bit more.
My advice for anyone considering a gap year is to take that leap into the unknown because behind that uncertainty lies a world filled with independence, community, strength, and unforeseen adventure that I have only just touched. Each day brings new journeys and connections, pushing your boundaries beyond limits you never thought were there. In the end, we don’t need some “list of success” to tell us what our path should be in life. We are capable of discovering that all on our own.