Q: What is your full name, where are you from, University/ degree you hold and your program?
My name is Alissa Brown, I am from Highland Park, IL which is a suburb of Chicago. I have a BA in Sociology from Boston University and I completed Destination Israel’s Tel Aviv Internship Experience.
Q: What were you doing and what was your life like before coming to Israel on Masa and how has it changed from this experience?
I was living in Chicago and coaching figure skating full time. I was also a manager at Ivivva, which is lululemon for girls. I loved skating and working with kids but my life today is so special too–there’s not much snow in Israel but I traded cold ice rinks for hot yoga and couldn’t be happier!
Q: Why Israel?
I felt such a profound connection to Israel on birthright and knew I wasn’t done exploring everything Israel had to offer me. Israel is one of the only places you can literally get offered a job just by meeting someone on the street–It’s Jewish geography times a million! This place has so much history and is also so progressive. The people are incredibly warm and I love the authenticity. Israel has been an amazing home to me, and the warmth beats Chicago’s cold any day!
Q: What was one of your favorite moment of your journey?
I absolutely loved the Masa leadership summit in Jerusalem as well as the Candlelight Yoga event I created at Studio Sol back in December. The leadership summit was major for me because it allowed me to learn, practice public speaking, and begin to understand how to effectively solve problems. I never knew I could learn so many skills, tackle social issues, and make an impactful difference whilst being in a foreign country. For me, being in a foreign country always meant visiting–looking from the outside in, an idle observer, without leaving any real trace. For the first time in my life I was leaving my mark on a place that wasn’t entirely familiar to me. There’s some major pride that comes from planting seeds and watching them flourish. On another note, putting the Candlelight Yoga event together felt extremely special for me as well in that not only was I learning the value of making connections and becoming a leader, I then in real time saw how I went from being influenced to being an influencer; I witnessed my own evolution to becoming a community builder. Bringing people together with a common purpose has always been something that I’m passionate about.
Q: What was your program like, what was an average day for you?
My program was seriously fabulous. The bottom line is that there are so many opportunities and doors open, but it’s up to you to walk through them. An average day for me meant going to the Yoga studio for my internship and also getting to practice yoga myself. And this was my work! I would then work with other people in the community–whether it’s meeting Israeli fashion designers to bring their clothing companies to the studio, or going to seminars on “hacking” Israeli culture, or volunteering at Beit Dror (an LGBT safehouse in Tel Aviv)–my days were always packed. But I chose this, I wanted to stay connected, to stay busy. You know you have this tiny window of opportunity to seize every experience, I never wanted to look back and say, “Why didn’t I tackle more?” Don’t get me wrong, some days were spent entirely at the beach with my phone off and in total relaxation mode. Sometimes you grind, sometimes you chill–it’s all about balance, right?
Q: How do you think taking part in Destination Israel’s Internship program will help you on your journey to a meaningful career and future?
Working in an Israeli environment taught me to voice my opinion, to be open about my needs, and to become a major risk taker. I know that for me so much of this experience, although the internship was phenomenal, is much more about life experience than work experience. When you leave your bubble of the “warm familiar” and venture outside your comfort zone, you’re going to have moments that are trying. But this experience has shown me how truly strong I am. It takes guts to move to the other side of the world—to leave everything you know for a chance at something new. I have so much more confidence and I can now see just how truly capable I am. If I can tackle Tel Aviv, there’s really nothing I can’t do.
Q: Any advice for incoming interns to Tel Aviv?
Don’t be afraid to take on projects, to bring new light and energy to the workplace, and to be as creative as possible. Israel is so laid back–and because of it’s casual nature you don’t have the hierarchical formal structures the way you may have in North America or Europe. In the office in Israel, you’ll have a seat at the table. There’s no coffee-fetching. Because you have the platform to have a voice, to be heard–and yes they are extremely straight forward and expect you to be too–you have opportunities here you just wouldn’t have otherwise. Use these nuances to your advantage. If you have chutzpah, it’ll go a long way!
Q: What are you up to now and what are your next steps?
I loved my internship experience so much I am now program advising for Destination Israel. I am involved with the Masa community, participate in as much marketing as possible at Taglit events, and share my love of my experience and Israel with as many people as I can. I am now 28 and wish I had known just how amazing Israel is sooner in life. My goal is to continue advising and mentoring young people wanting to come to Israel to help them make the absolute most of their experience.
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