05 Jan Grateful for a Gap Year
Born and raised in Chicago, Judah, 19, expected to start his freshman year at the University of Chicago in Fall 2020 with the intention of being pre-med. But after receiving an email from his school about classes being online and restrictions to be enforced due to the coronavirus pandemic, he and his parents decided perhaps a gap-year was a better option.
That was when Judah turned to Masa Israel Journey and one of its authorized programs, Aardvark Israel, to find the perfect experience. Aardvark Israel operates in conjunction with Masa, which is a joint project of the Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency for Israel. Masa offers young Jews diverse opportunities in terms of gap-year Israel experience programs, which appealed to Judah as he could focus on what he was interested in.
“I chose Aardvark because it offers a plethora of classes, internships, and trips. But what ultimately drove my decision was Aardvark’s Magen David Adom (Mada) add-on,” shared Judah. “Through the Mada track, I became certified as an Emergency Medical Responder equivalent, allowing me to volunteer on ambulances. While my time in Jerusalem has ended, I hope to continue volunteering with Mada in Tel Aviv.”
Not only is Judah thrilled as someone who wants to go into medicine to be getting real-world related experience, but he also is enjoying the independence that comes from doing a gap-year program halfway across the world, living on his own for the first time.
“The true beauty of gap year independence lies in defining one’s character,” Judah reflected. “Living on your own, away from familial influences without the pressure of school, allows us to explore who we are, who we want to be and really take our first steps towards adulthood.”
Though Judah was able to take part in the Mada track and other Aardvark activities despite the coronavirus, his experience in Israel thus far has been impacted by the pandemic. Another program add-on that would have allowed Judah to participate in light basic training with the Israel Defense Forces for two months was canceled due to COVID-19. Other events or plans had to accommodate lockdowns, health restrictions, and more, per Israel’s Covid protocols. Still, Judah has no regrets about his decision to do a gap-year in Israel through Aardvark.
“After being here for a semester, I can definitely say the decision I made to come to Israel proved to be the right one; I am beyond ecstatic and grateful to be here. I have met the most amazing, thoughtful people in Israel, whether that be my roommates or other ambulance medics,” said Judah. “And while I do miss my family immensely and occasionally wonder what life would be like had I stayed a part of the University of Chicago class of 2024, I would not have done anything differently.”