29 Sep Spending a Gap Year in Israel During Corona
In April, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Alexa, 18, was talking to her would-be college roommate. The two had met at a University of Pennsylvania incoming freshmen meetup and immediately hit it off. But instead of chatting about dorm decor and making plans for their first semester at UPenn, they were instead discussing taking a year off and delaying their college enrollment.
“Because of the school’s plans, which at the time, were to be a hybrid model of a mix of online and in-person classes — though they ultimately went totally online — we thought to maximize our college experience, we should take a gap year and wanted to do a program together,” said Alexa. “I always knew I wanted to go back to Israel so we started researching potential options.”
Their research led them to Young Judaea Israel Year Course, a Masa Israel Journey subsidiary. Through Year Course, participants spend half the year in Jerusalem and half in Tel Aviv, gaining valuable life experience and skills as they volunteer, study, intern and develop their Jewish identities.
“We felt Year Course fit us best — it checked every box. I’m starting in Tel Aviv and doing an internship, working at a venture capital firm, and then the second half of the year I’ll be taking classes in Jerusalem,” shared Alexa. “Of course, first we are in quarantine for two weeks and the new lockdown will impact our programming too.”
Though this is Alexa’s fourth time in Israel, it’s been two years since her last trip to the Jewish State. She always knew she wanted to come back and now can’t believe it was only because of the coronavirus that she decided to take a gap-year in Israel before college.
“I worked super hard in high school and was very excited to go to college but there’s no reason not to take a year,” Alexa said, reflecting on her decision. “At school, someone tells you what to do but here, you make your own decisions; you’re at the wheel. And what you learn in a classroom is way different than what you learn in a foreign country by yourself.”
Despite the restrictions in place going into October because of increasing COVID-19 cases in Israel, Alexa is completely happy with her decision to spend the year in Israel.
“I’ll look back on this year as a really important part of my growth, having gained a new perspective and broadened my horizons, and I’m going to have a stronger set of values having learned a lot about Israel, Judaism and myself,” shared Alexa. “This will be a year of discovery and independence.”