gap year in israel

Hi! I’m Anna Kalik and I’m from Charleston, South Carolina. Two summers ago I spent a month in Israel on a summer tour with my youth group. As expected, fell in love with the places I visited and the sense of commonality and community. However, I was here during an extremely tense time, Operation Protective Edge. I heard sirens from incoming rockets and experienced first-hand what it was like to run to a bomb shelter. Because of this experience, I felt my connection with Israel grow tremendously. I knew immediately I had to live here (at least for a year). I chose to come on Aardvark because I wanted to meet new people and that was the best decision I could have made.

Currently, I’m volunteering at a kindergarten for kids with special needs and a horse farm rehabilitation center. Through both volunteer placements I feel like I’ve made a difference in my local community. I’ve learned how to work with kids, a skill that was foreign to me when getting here. I have become more responsible and improved my Hebrew by communicating with my coworkers.
This year has obviously been more than that though. I’ve been so lucky to be able to live in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem! Both different atmospheres but equally incredible experiences. Going to the Tel Aviv beach during the summer after walking through Shuk Hacarmel and getting six shekel falafel was and still is one of my favorite ways to do Tel Aviv. Of course, there’s no shortage of things to do at night like Rothschild Street and Florentine can keep you dancing until early in the morning. In Jerusalem, my roommates and I discovered “boogie night,” which happens once a month in different locations but usually somewhere like a gymnasium where there’s a lot of room for a lot of Israelis to dance to electronic music.

Holidays in Israel are unforgettable, especially ones that bring the whole country together in celebration like Purim and Yom Haatzmaut. During Purim everybody parades the streets in costume and on Yom haazmaut Israeli pride was on intense display. It’s also incredible to see how the entire country caters for Passover by blocking off the bread products in grocery stores, something that I’m not used to at all in America. I was always just happy to see a shelf of kosher for Passover products at Publix in Charleston.

Even though I have practiced my cooking this year, I still wouldn’t call myself a chef since I mainly stick to pasta and quesadillas (don’t tell my mom.) I have however attempted with help Shakshuka which I’m excited to try to cook without help when I get home. The best lunches though are the ones where I treat myself to schnitzel and pita across the street at Shalom Falafel. They’ve become my home cooked meal.

On our free weekends I get to travel around the country and even though I love Jerusalem it’s nice to experience other cities every once in a while. I’ve taken trips with my friends to Akko, Herzliya, Haifa, and Tiberias. The most memorable weekend was when we got a huge group from both sections to go camping on the Kinneret for two nights. It turned out to be one of the best times I’ve had this year.

The best piece of advice I could give to those planning on coming to Aardvark is to get out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you. Go out and explore even if you’re tired! Say yes! You may think you know yourself, but you’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of ways you’ll end up growing throughout the year. My brother told me this before I left, and it has stuck with me for the past nine months. “You’re here living your life. Not every day is going to be perfect, though most will, you’re spending a year of your life here and everyone has at least one bad day once a year. That’s okay.”

My future plans are to attend Boston University and eventually concentrate on film! I’m very excited for college, but this year on Aardvark has been the best year of my life, and I’ve made my best friends here.

Gap year in israel - aardvarkisrael