My name is Jan Van Brakel, I am 18 years old and live in Amsterdam, Netherlands. After I finished high school , I decided to take a gap year, because I feel that I am too young to study (or work) immediately after school. I followed the example of my friends in Israel who will only start their studies after the army. I want to see more of the world and this is the perfect time for it. In addition, I also still don’t know exactly what I would like to study and a gap year is really fun. I am seriously considering taking another “travel year” before I continue my studies. At the beginning of this year I worked a lot so I could save enough money for my travels which I have already begun. Before I came to Israel I spent a month and half in South Africa!
In the beginning I had some doubts about Jerusalem, because it often considered a very religious city and I was worried there wouldn’t be enough to do for young adults searching for a wide range of experiences. Which is luckily nonsense, Jerusalem is a very student centered city. Coming to Aardvark had been a great decision! I have made a lot friends for a lifetime, I do interesting things every evening and I am just really satisfied. As example, last Thursday we went to a karaoke bar, which was very embarrassing and fun! And when we are too tired to go out, we just all hang together in the living room with some loud music and great conversations. It’s great to have friends from all over the world, because of the interesting diversity of cultures and to have a place to stay if you come to visit them of course.
What I like about Aardvark is that it gives us a good preparation for life. For example, we cook our own meals,clean our apartments and do the dishes (sometimes haha) and we still have a lot of free time. Because I’ve lived here in the past and speak the language fluently, it is the ideal time to stay at my Israeli friends. However, it is getting more difficult for me to leave my friends at Aardvark for the weekend. I stayed this weekend in Jerusalem and had a lot of fun! I’ve also recently got an acting/modeling contract and Aardvark is fine with it to give me the opportunity for my self-development.
During the day I volunteer at a high school where I give English private lessons. As a child, when I used to live in Ra’anana, Israel I saw some of the tremendous benefits of voluntary work can bring to a community therefore, I think it is a great initiative to do something good in return. It is really rewarding to see a child receive a good grade as a result of your help and is grateful for it. Moreover, I have made some great friendships with the other students and I go out with them. I’m really looking forward to traveling in the weekends with my friends trough Israel and visit many concerts together!