January 2008. I’m sitting in a cubicle on the 23rd floor of the World Financial Center with 17 Excel spreadsheets on my laptop, absurdly ecstatic by the discovery of 54 cent refills now being offered at the Starbucks downstairs. No, this is not a post from mylife.com, but a glimpse into what my life was like nearly two years ago. At 24 years old, I knew something had to change, and fast.
Although I made annual visits from Cleveland to Israel to see family since childhood, I had always wanted a more immersive experience there. After graduating from Emory with a degree in business administration, working in public accounting for two years, and earning my CPA license, the time was finally right. After searching the web for long-term programs, I found the perfect fit: Masa Israel’s Career Israel.
I was attracted to the opportunity for many reasons. Not only did it include a five-month internship in my field of choice, but I would also take part in a six-week intensive Hebrew ulpan, educational seminars, trips throughout the country, and would receive housing in Tel Aviv alongside other recent college graduates. While most of the participants chose to work in their field, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to take a break from my career in accounting and volunteer in a social justice capacity.
Shortly after notifying my employer and moving out of my Manhattan apartment, I arrived in Israel and began volunteering at Kadima, an integrated after-school center for disadvantaged children in Jaffa. Though the work was challenging, I missed the fast-paced environment of my previous work.
Soon after I began volunteering at the school, I received a job offer at a waste energy start-up that had technology to convert landfill waste into renewable fuel for sale all over the world. There, I was able to use my knowledge in the up-and-coming field of renewable energy and help the start-up’s international clients develop business plans. After working for such a large company in New York, I thrived in the flexible start-up environment, which gave me more responsibility and the opportunity to get involved in areas outside of my job title.
Fast forward one year. Despite having made all the arrangements to return to New York after the program ended – furniture stored in a rented space, a lucrative job waiting, and plans to move in with my best friend – I am still here. I took the job at the start- up which became a long-term position as their VP of Finance. That opportunity, coupled with my love of Israel and the incredible experience of living in Tel Aviv, led me to stay.
Today I work as an assistant controller for a financial services outsourcing firm in Ra’anana and continue to enjoy living in Tel Aviv. Had it not been for Masa’s program, there’s a good chance I’d still be stuck in the concrete jungle addicted to venti Starbucks iced coffees. I encourage more young adults take advantage of these wonderful opportunities in Israel.