gap year in israel

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Hi, my name is Rachel Hasson and I am from Johannesburg, South Africa. I first came across Aardvark was when Simon (Aardvark) Cohen came to promote the program at my school, King David Victory Park. At first, I was pretty confused as to why they would name a gap year program in Israel after an ant eater in Afrikaans, but I guess this left me a little more curious than anything else.

Now here I am, currently living in the heart of Tel Aviv, in a cool, hipster neighbourhood called Florentine. But boy have I seen, and briefly lived in some pretty cool places this year. I began my Aardvark adventure living in a small neighbourhood called Katamon in Jerusalem. I think it’s an important place that truly allowed me to explore the connection that I feel to the land, spiritually and emotionally.

The internship system within the program helps to heighten the level of the independence that the program strives to achieve. Initially, I worked at the kindergarten around the corner from the Aardvark office. This was a great way to improve my Hebrew – four year olds aren’t usually that judgemental and don’t really give you funny looks. It also allowed me to explore my potential career choice of being a teacher. As much as I loved my internship, I realised that it was a very personal job and I was not always in Jerusalem due to the international add-ons that I participated in and this made it challenging to maintain my connection with the kids. Thus, I decided to change my internship and work in a leather fashion store called Mikanmor which I also thoroughly enjoyed.

I am blessed to be able to travel all over the world, with friends from all corners, explore different cultures, try authentic food and see the most remarkable sites. In this year alone, I have been to Ethiopia, Germany and Italy and spent 5-7 days in each, travelling all over. We also went on a 2 week cultural exchange program to Nepal to not only travel and explore, but to also volunteer in a village for 5 days. This was by far the most beautiful, crazy and culturally shocking thing that I have ever done. And I loved every second of it.

In the 2 month break between my Jerusalem and Tel Aviv semester, I attended the summer camp add-on. I had the opportunity to work as a camp counsellor in Milford, Pennsylvania for 2 months. This was my first time being a camp counsellor, and let me say, it was the hardest, yet most rewarding job I have ever done. I pushed my limits and worked 14 hour days. It took some getting used to and my body clock had to adjust, but I did it.

As I write all my experiences down, I am sitting on the couch in my apartment about to eat the homemade meal that we made as an apartment – and my heart is overflowing with gratitude. My year will soon be coming to an end, yet I still have so much to look forward too. Soon I will be travelling to Spain, Prague and China. I will be seeing more awesome spots in Israel. I have made so many friends from all over the world, friendships that I will treasure for a very long time. My maturity and independence levels have skyrocketed, I have changed in so many ways, and have learnt so much. And it’s all thanks to Aardvark.