By Andria Aylyarov
This piece was contributed by Masa Israel Journey — for more information, click here.
If you swiped through my Instagram to February 2015ish, or browse that far back on my Facebook page, you’d probably think, “damn, this girl had the time of her life.” In the year or so following my college graduation in December 2013 I got a full time job, quit that full time job, packed a backpack, moved to beautiful Tel Aviv and became an intern all over again.
Kind of sounds like taking a step back in life, right? Well sort of. I prefer to think of it as pressing the restart button.
At the time, I was working at a publishing company underneath a very thick glass ceiling, dabbling in freelance work on the side and simply going through the motions of life. Then it hit me, was I supposed to stay crammed in a dingy office for the rest of my life, hoping the right career path would fall into my lap? No, I was not. So, I decided to say “Yalla, bye” to this adult version of Andria and find a new one.
Many adults in my life, especially my parents and former bosses, likely said I was trying to escape adulthood. Trading my grown-up responsibilities for hummus, white sand and the nonstop nightlife of Tel Aviv. And, to a certain extent they were right: I was escaping a form adulthood — that of a Jewish American 20-something — and trading it to become an adult abroad, in Israel.
So, if you’re one of those people who thinks adulting is lame, but that quitting a full-time job to become an intern is insane, yet you still find yourself envious of those willing to give everything up, keep reading.
Here are six ways I became a responsible adult by traveling abroad:
1. Learning to Take Charge — Startup Nation Style
There’s no point in complaining about something if you don’t have the chutzpah to fix it. While I’d only worked for a year, I was in desperate need of a career change. So, participating in a Masa internship program in Israel wasn’t so far-fetched for me. Additionally, the concept of an intern is still quite new to Israel because Masa practically introduced it to the Israeli market. Whereas interns in the U.S. tend to be college students who need to build their resumes, interns in Israel tend to be college-educated young professionals from around the world.
When I showed up for my first day at WMN, Israel’s first all-female accelerator, the founder handed me the keys to the place and declared me acting manager. Although most of the participating startups worked in Hebrew, I had no choice but to figure out ways to communicate with their founders and employees to help them get the necessary resources to set them up for success. Everyone treated as an equal and a team member. I was given my own projects from the get-go and was responsible for measuring my own success (or failure).
2. Living in a New Country – And All that Comes With
Although I’d been to Israel many times before I went on Masa, this time was different. I lived like a local and experienced the country on new terms. Living in a new country is no small task, there’s no one there to hold your hand, there’s a language barrier and a cultural barrier. After a few months I could effortlessly hop on and off the bus, adapt to the culture and communicate with peers from around the world; I knew something in me had changed for the better. I felt accomplished knowing I adapted and grew my professional network in such a short time.
3. Dealing with the Emotions of Missing Family Events
For me, the hardest part of the experience was leaving my boyfriend at the time (and now husband) and missing my grandmother’s 90th birthday, as well as our ever-entertaining family Passover Seders. Still, there’s something beautiful about building new friendships and creating a home away from home. Plus, you know what they say, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ Being home away from home allowed my relationships back in the States to grow stronger and my new ones in Israel to flourish. Most importantly, I expanded my family in Israel and reconnected with distant cousins and shared holidays with them – now we’re like BFFs.
4. Experiencing Real Community
In Israel, whether you’re at work, on the beach, hiking in the Negev or hanging in the park, everyone treats each other (including strangers) like friends and family. I cannot even count how many times I found myself sitting in the park near my apartment in Tel Aviv and women just handed me their kids for a second, or asked me to watch their baby as they helped their other child(ren). It was at this point that I knew wherever I would live next, I wanted it to be a community like the one I experienced in Israel; I wanted to live in a place where strangers can count on one another.
5. The Israeli Work Ethic
Do these people ever stop working? The answer is no. Just when your work day ends at 5 PM in the U.S., another 10 startups are probably founded in Israel. One thing you learn when you intern or study in Israel is what it takes to get things done. If you have a new idea to propose or a goal you want to accomplish – this is the place that can help you make it happen.
I went to Israel with the goals of gaining knowledge of and experience in startups and analytics, and that’s exactly what I did. From the second my internship began, I was swimming in learning opportunities that ultimately allowed me to seamlessly transition back to the professional world in the U.S., and I have the jobs on my resume to prove it.
6. Embracing Adulthood
By pressing reset, leaving everything I knew, quitting my job, becoming an intern (again), and spending time in Israel, I realized that adulting isn’t so bad. I finally had the opportunity to find my passions and figure out what motivates me. In Israel, it’s totally cool and even expected to make mistakes, because you’ll also figure out solutions. Living and immersing myself in a society that so fully embraces this mentality changed my professional and personal life. While adulting isn’t always easy, my time in Israel taught me how to not only find solutions to my problems, but to find the solutions that work best for me because being an adult is all about taking responsibility For your actions, yourself, and your personal well-being.
Now, nearly two years later, I know that trading one adult life for another was the best decision I’ve ever made. I spent six months discovering who I was as a person, a partner and an employee, in Israel.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.
Andria Aylyarov is a content marketing specialist for and alumna of Masa Israel Journey. She loves a good glass of white wine and wishes she was 85-years-old and living in Boca, but she currently resides in Brooklyn.