Sofia Gutkin decided to give her job as a paediatric physiotherapist in Melbourne a break last year in order to go to Israel on Masa’s Career Israel program. Here, she shares her experiences.
Career Israel is a five month program based in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, providing young professionals with a five-month internship in their chosen field. The first month of the program consists of ulpan (Hebrew language classes), regular weekend trips and excursions, and very interesting guest speakers presenting on various topics.
On top of that, you get to live in Beit Leni (the eternal question being: Who is Leni, and why is it his house?) on King George Street. This is the central ‘café and club’ district of Tel Aviv, within easy walking distance to the beach and the shuk (market).
A lot of people go on this program because they have just finished university and want to gain experience in their chosen field before applying for jobs. My story was different. I had been working as a paediatric physiotherapist for 4 years, but I was burnt out and unhappy with my job. I was also really keen to live overseas and try out a completely different profession. I’d been interested in Russian to English translating for many years, but had no idea how to go about getting into the industry. My internship, while not directly providing me with a lot of translating experience, still allowed me the opportunity to use specialised translation software and gave me a clear understanding of how translating companies function. Despite my continual work as a physiotherapist, I still work as a paid freelance online translator, which I didn’t think I’d ever get to do!
The program was so much more than my internship though; and I loved every single day that I was on Career Israel. I made friends with people from the US, Canada, Russia, France and Brazil. I attended amazing trips and workshops (I can’t recommend enough the Security and Diplomacy Shabbaton, if you’re interested in Israeli foreign policy and the security situation with Gaza). I went clubbing. I lazed around on the beach; and I drank more than I ever had in Melbourne. I fell in love with the Negev Desert. I discovered that Israel is full of Roman and Crusader ruins; and I gained a ‘second family’ in Haifa, where my Uncle Natan and Aunt Lena welcomed me to their house every month and helped me out in a hundred different ways.
Throughout my time on Career Israel, I made a series of discoveries. I learnt that English-speakers use ‘sorry’ way too much, and that the way to get your shopping done at the shouk (HaCarmel Market) on a Friday morning is to use your elbows mercilessly. I learnt that the funkiest clothes are actually sold at a store for religious women at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. I learnt that Israeli men function with the ‘Lama lo?’ (why not?) mentality, so that a man twice your age will attempt to pick you up whether you’re meditating on the beach, getting a dress altered at the tailor’s, or walking back inside the student accommodation with your groceries (there’s a true story in each case here). Despite the fact that I spoke barely any Hebrew, had no knowledge of Jewish traditions and holidays, and am in fact a ‘rabid’ atheist, I grew to love the country and the people. I enjoyed living in Tel Aviv so much that after my planned 2 month trip through Russia and Europe, I came back to Israel for another five months…but that’s another story.
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