I was asked to describe to you something indescribable, an experience of a lifetime. I was fortunate enough to have spent my summer in Israel, living in the white city of Tel Aviv, and working for an inspiring non-profit organization called The Jaffa Institute. Working for ten weeks, Sunday through Thursday, I began to collaborate with the Jaffa Institute’s mission of curing the intergenerational poverty found in Israel’s most impoverished areas of Jaffa, South Tel Aviv, and Bat Yam. Being that I am about to complete my undergraduate degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice at Grand Valley State University this fall, I have received priceless experience that will undoubtedly assist me throughout the rest of my career, as well as my personal life.

For those who are unfamiliar with the field of social work, it is often split into two main practice categories called “micro” and “macro.” Before coming to Israel, I had been more familiar, and comfortable for that matter with the micro practice of social work, involving working hands on with a person, or small group of people to reach a certain goal. However, after working with the Jaffa Institute, I have become much more comfortable, and confident in my skills on the macro level. Writing grant proposals, heading the social media department, fundraising, presenting to visiting volunteer groups, as well as traveling to our many different programming locations, I was given the sense of the ‘big picture,’ and why organizations such as the Jaffa Institute, and this macro practice are vital to making a difference, even changing the world.

Notice how I describe myself working “with” the Jaffa Institute, and not “for” the Jaffa Institute. In Israel, interning is much different than in the United States. Never once was I asked to “get the boss coffee,” or “to go make copies.” Senseless, mindless work such as this that is regularly given to interns in the United States is generally unheard of here. I was treated as a co-worker, as if my work, and contributions to the organization were of use and necessity; I was made to feel important.

Besides my incredible internship, I was able to reside in the center of Israel’s most ambitious, creative, and young city; Tel Aviv. A city where at four o’clock in the morning you would swear it was only eleven at night; the streets are full, and bars are only beginning to close; I swear to you this city and its inhabitants do not sleep. There is always something to do, see, and experience. Along with experiencing Tel Aviv, I traveled to the north of Israel, visiting Afula, Tzfat, Karmiel, the Galilee, and the Golan, while also making it a point to visit the holy city of Jerusalem. I attempted to visit as many places as I could, and make the most of my ten week stay.

As my summer came to an end, I began to realize not only how attached I had become to this country, but also the important skills I have learned throughout my stay that I want to bring back with me to the United States, and to school. This fall, I will begin my position as the Community Service chair of our Hillel Organization, a position I was excited for before coming to Israel, and am now even more excited for upon returning. After spending an entire summer on another continent, immersing myself in another culture, all whilst doing community service work, I believe that I have an even bigger skill set to offer the Hillel Organization, and the community, then when I was initially given the position.

This summer of a lifetime is one I will surely never forget. I intend on taking every experience I had, and everything that I learned, and using it towards my future. To Grand Valley State’s Hillel, you best prepare yourselves for some stellar community service initiatives; and to Israel, look out, because you will be seeing me again, very soon.

Samantha interned at the Jaffa Institute while on Career Israel’s Summer Track.

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