A few months before I graduated from Monmouth University with a degree in business management, I was hounded with the dreaded question, “So...what are your plans after graduation?" Soon I would be forcefully pushed out of my four-year nest of comfort and carelessness and placed in "the real world," where I was expected to embrace a life of responsibility and direction. Having grown up as a beach bum and a party girl on the shores of Atlantic City, I tended not to take my future too seriously and just tried to live life day by day. I had little knowledge of what I wanted to do professionally, but I knew that I never wanted to work the typical 9 to 5 job in a cubicle, that I wanted to travel the world, and that I needed to save money to make it happen.
After graduation, I found myself back in my parents’ home, working from 9 to 5 in the customer complaint department at a local casino and sitting in my very own cubicle. After sticking it out for a year and a half and saving money, I decided to enroll and was accepted to Masa Israel’s Career Israel, a five-month internship program based in Israel. At the time, I was still unsure of the direction I wanted my career to take and the opportunity seemed perfect.
I arrived with no expectations and an open mind, the only way to be when embarking on such a journey. I lived in the center of Tel Aviv, where the weather is warmer, the falafel balls are sweeter, and dreams are known to come true. The best part about it...I was surrounded by 100 others who were in the same boat as me. No one knew exactly what they wanted, only that it was a step in the right direction and that we were lucky to be living it in Israel.
It’s difficult to explain the feelings that come with being a foreigner in the Jewish state, and frustrating moments happen often. It’s common to go to the bank six different times to open a bank account. Yet, in the midst of a region filled with unfriendly neighbors, I have never felt so safe especially knowing that I have one of the strongest armies to protect me at every turn. All in all, daily life in Israel is amazingly fulfilling. It is something that could never be truly explained, but that an individual must experience on their own to gain true knowledge of the feeling.
I interned at Hillel at Tel Aviv University where I planned fun and educational events for the students from the overseas program. I was responsible for events from start to finish, finding venues, planning content and music, advertising, and my personal favorite, negotiating drink specials. Adapting to the Israeli work environment was easy, as it is more laidback and deadlines aren’t life or death. Despite working 40 hours a week, I still felt like I was on vacation. In the American culture, work defines who one is and many people are caught up in the “live to work” mindset. The Israeli work culture is on the other side of the spectrum. Everyday is casual Friday and people always have time to stop and smell the shakshuka. It was the exact breath of fresh Mediterranean air that I needed.
As the five months winded down, I realized that my internship may have been more meaningful than just another bullet point on my resume. During those months, my involvement in event planning extended beyond Tel Aviv University and infiltrated my Career Israel group experience, as I helped plan Shabbat dinners, beach barbeques, nights out on the town, and a marathon week at the end of our session. It became clear that a career in event planning was in my future.
The impact of my Masa Israel experience is priceless. While my time abroad included trips to Jordan, Greece, Turkey, and Italy, Israel trumped all. Not only was I able to find my career path, I made amazing friends along the way. We lived in a city that never sleeps, where one can parties all night, beach all day, stop along the way for some mint tea and a scrumptious homemade pastry, and live life to the fullest every day.