Before I left for my gap year, I spoke to a lot of different people who had been on Year Course before me about what they experienced, what their highlights were and what they got out of their year. This gave me a slight insight as to what I was going to do over the coming year, but I realized, you cannot actually understand what you are going to experience until you are actually living in Israel for the 9 months.
Now that I have completed my own gap year, I can now understand what everyone was trying to explain to me: the fun I would have, the things I would learn about, everything I experienced and how my connection to Israel would change. I can now say that throughout my year, there were so many experiences that I enjoyed as much I could. A few of the main elements were my volunteering placements throughout the year and the things I gained from all of them. I can also say that this year has been the BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE and the memories I have will live with me for the rest of my life.
My first placement was volunteering in a gan (nursery) with 1-2 year old children. This was in Ramat Sharet in Jerusalem. Even though it was an early start and an hour’s journey, I woke up every morning ready to help the kids. Some days I would walk into a classroom of screaming, crying and unhappy young children and others, I would find kids who would run up to me, hug me and smile! I loved every minute of this placement, as my career path is to work with children and this placement gave me great experience. The staff made me very welcome and the children were great to work with.
My second placement was working with Magen David Adom. This was also another placement I loved. I have always wanted to become a nurse and I plan to study nursing in university. I thought working on the ambulances would be an amazing opportunity for me to gain experience and help the citizens of Israel at the same time. After taking part in a 10 day intensive training course, I took an exam and passed which then allowed me to start work. I was based in Rishon L’Tzion, a suburb of Tel Aviv. I made a lot of new friends while helping the citizens of Israel. I gained a lot of skills and experience from working with the ambulance crews.
In addition to volunteering, I attended Ulpan classes for 7 months. This increased my level of Hebrew to the point where I was able to get around the country a lot easier. From the start, even from before Year Course, I had a strong connection to Israel and my Jewish identity; however, my connection grew through learning Hebrew and living and working with Israeli citizens in many aspects of their daily lives, and my Jewish identity grew to give me a stronger bond with Israel.
Being able to connect to Israel in a stronger manner and being able to explore the country more, as well as living and working in Israel, made me become a lot more independent and grown-up.