I’m forever grateful for the experience of having participated in an Israel gap year and the perspective that year gave me. While on Year Course I learned so much about myself, my Jewish identity and my place in the world. I learned that I am capable – I had to navigate an unfamiliar society, including new currency, language and expectations. Did I misstep? Yes! So many times, but I learned, grew and gained confidence in myself. I came to understand that Israel, while unfamiliar, was also a home for me. The friendships formed through those experiences endure through today. I came to understand what it meant to be a part of something you believe in and I felt like my contributions were important. I didn’t know it then, but these lessons would shape the person I was to become.
I remember people would ask why I wanted to “take a year off” before college. I never felt like it was a year off. I felt like it was a year to grow and experience life! I learned so much by immersing myself in Israel for those months. I lived with a moshav family in the Golan Heights and reflected on what it means to be a community. I worked in the community gan (preschool) in the Arad absorption center and learned to welcome someone with a genuine smile because words were not available. I became a braver more confident version of myself. I rode buses back and forth across Israel- by the time I arrived in Athens the UGA buses were a cinch. I managed my expenses in sheckels, so keeping track of dollars was manageable. I made choices how to celebrate and observe Jewish traditions with my community and found my own joy in these experiences. The lessons from my gap year experience inspired me, taught me and prepared me for a life of adventure and service founded in Jewish values. I am truly grateful for those experiences.
Tracey Grant/JumpSpark Think Tank member