Emily Bowman is originally from Budapest, Hungary, but was born in Washington, DC in the US. She is currently on a gap year in Israel with Maslul Ishi, which translates to personal journey/track.

Why Israel?

In my junior year of high school, I decided I wanted to take a gap year. Israel didn’t immediately pop in my mind because I was looking into the option of perhaps going to Spain to finish learning Spanish or going to America to be close to my American family.

When I was finishing high school, I began to narrow down my options. Israel kept popping up as an option and then I came across Masa. Masa seemed to fill all my wants and needs. On top of that, my sister took a gap year in Israel on Maslul Ishi, so I had someone in the family to vouch for the program. Maslul Ishi gives me free reign over all the activities I choose to do, they also provide accommodation in the heart of Tel Aviv, mental and physical support if needed, and two monthly activities for all the participants on our program. I get to meet people from around the world, while choosing my own path. This was exactly the structure I was looking for, and I am very happy that I chose Israel as the destination for my gap year.

What was your favorite moment this far in your journey?

My favorite moment this far has definitely been the simplicity of Shabbat with friends. The one Shabbat that my absolute favorite took place about a month ago on October 12th, Friday.

My sister, who now lives in Israel after spending a year here with Masa, decided that she would like to host a big Shabbat dinner.  She invited around 20 of her friends, most of whom were also Masa participants in the past, and ultimately made Aliyah. We set up some mood lighting on her apartment’s roof top terrace, had a bunch of chairs, a blanket on the floor, a shisha to sit around and a ton of food thanks to everyone who brought.

It was something very simple that ultimately turned into one of my favorite moments. To me it perfectly represented Israel. People gathered on that roof, from all over the world, sharing a nice Shabbat dinner and just relaxing.

What is your program like, what makes it different from life at home?

In Maslul Ishi there is no daily itinerary that all participants must follow. We are all very independent, pro-active, and open-minded people.

Before coming to Israel, the coordinators of Maslul asked me what I would like to do during my time in Israel. Initially my answer was that I would like to do Ulpan (Hebrew lessons), which they found for me and helped me sign up for immediately upon arriving. When I am not in Ulpan, I spent time at other events and activities I find through Masa or on social media. I attended an event in which current Knesset members Merav Michaeli and Michael Oren spoke, the General Assembly conference, a JDC entwine event. I have also been able to attend to multiple parties and Oktoberfests that happened all over the city. There are always a million things happening in Tel Aviv, which is what makes this city a special destination for a gap year.

My life at home compared to that of Tel Aviv is completely different. This is my first time not living at home with a stocked fridge. Back at home, I was already a very independent person, but upon coming to Tel Aviv, I became even more independent, which means buying and making my own food!

What’s next for you after Masa?

After my year in Israel, I am planning on attending university either in Dublin or Amsterdam to study Politics, Law and/or Economics. Afterwards, there are a million options spanning from studying for my masters in Israel or America to interning in Israel and so forth. The world is a big place full of endless opportunities.

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