Rachel Ethridge - 2015 Program Participant
What motivated you to sign up for an international internship?
I was turning 24, working at a company staffed by people who had lived all around the world and listened with jealousy every time they talked about their times abroad. Studying abroad was not in the cards for me when I was getting my undergrad, so when the idea popped into my head while sitting at a desk and working the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. life, I couldn't shut it down. I found a facilitated program that I thought would guide me the right way through living abroad and signed up without a clue about what was about to happen.
Why did you choose Young Judaea?
There were so many programs to choose from, but I decided I wanted to live in Israel. I thought I wanted to do some sort of non-profit or service work, so I found the appropriate programs that suited my needs and started reaching out to alumni of all of those programs. I asked them all my questions and tried to shift around and find the people I vibed with best and the answers that felt the most right.
What was your favorite part about Israel?
I lived in Florentin, TLV, which is on the end of southern Tel Aviv and the city of Jaffa; it was incredible. It was dirty and smelly, but beautiful and full of hipsters and cafes and dogs and music and pubs and all the people on my program who I started to love and live at their apartments, which were two minutes away from mine. I would stop at a corner store on the way to their places to grab a bottle of wine, the grocery store to grab cookies, the laundromat to drop off my laundry... smiling the whole way. All of this just on one street!
What makes Young Judaea’s program unique?
WUJS had a flexibility I didn't know I needed or wanted. I was lucky enough to intern at a company that let me sort of make my own schedule, which allotted me to make my time in Israel exactly what I wanted it to be.
I lived more than I interned, and it changed my life in all the good ways.
How supportive was the local staff?
The staff became our friends. They led is on wonderful trips every Tuesday and were there for us when we needed them.
Was it difficult to communication with the locals?
Most of the locals in Israel know a lot of English, so it was very easy, but when they didn't know too much it was actually really fun. Trying to communicate with facial expressions and hand gestures was awesome and created relationships for me that I wouldn't otherwise have. It was beautiful to see something develop with no verbal expression at all.
What was an average day life for you in Tel Aviv?
Wake up. Make a tea and drink it standing on my porch, overlooking one of the best streets in Florentin. Get on the bus to go to my internship. Leave work around 1:00ish. Go to a cafe with my best friend, maybe split a bottle of wine. Walk down the local markets and try not to eat and buy everything we saw. Go back to our apartments, watch Shameless, sing songs on the balcony to all the neighbors, make dinner, be obsessed with each other, go to a cafe and grab dessert and talk about our upcoming road trips through this tiny country.
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
Renting a car and wanderlusting all around Israel.
How were your living arrangements?
I shared a four-person apartment with three other girls on my program. We had a great kitchen with a big island that could hold all of our food when I hosted all my people over for Shabbat and Friendsgiving.
Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Israel?
If you're heading to Israel, pack as little as possible. The people and boutiques are so on-point with their fashion. If you're into style, you are going to buy a lot; you won’t even wear those jeans you brought. However, do bring all your medicines with you; prices at pharmacies are jacked up in Israel. You'll buy Blundstones after being there for one month, so no need to bring hiking shoes. Israelis are badasses and wear sandals when they go hiking.
What surprised you most about Israel?
The thing that surprised me most about Israel was how much more in tune I was with international news and politics. Of course I should have realized this, living in a different country, but it was, unfortunately, so not on my radar living in America, that moving to the Middle East was a huge shock with the amount of new intake I was now paying attention to. I was also shocked at how different the lifestyle was for me, living in Israel. It was laidback and easy-going and beautiful. I rarely felt stressed by anything, but the terrorism (which may sound funny) was just one thing, compared to so many small things in the States.
What's one thing you wish you could change about your experience?
What is one thing you wish you would have known before interning in Israel?
Before leaving I wish someone would have sat me down and said two things:
1. You will be flooded with extreme homesickness while you adjust, as you usually do, but you will pull through in no time and literally laugh at the hours you spent wishing you could fly home.
2.Keep your expectations right where they are; you have no idea what's going to happen, surprise yourself.
How did your time with Young Judaea change your life?
It changed my life completely. I have an independence now that I didn't know I was missing. I am much more appreciative of America. I met another bridesmaid and a lot more lifers. I started to see myself for who I really am, for who I want to be, and always knew I could be. I'm more confident in myself and my decisions. I'm smarter and I understand things globally (better than I did before). I've embraced my religion in a way I didn't know I ever would. I'm not afraid to say yes to everything; I know it's all worth it now.
If you could intern abroad again, where would you go?
If I could intern abroad again I would love to do it somewhere in Europe, because the travel to other countries is so easy. Of course, I would die to go back to Tel Aviv as well.