My 1,052nd Wednesday

Today is a great day. Today marks my 1,052nd Wednesday alive, and it is also the fourth consecutive week that I’ve been participating at my new internship with Hut HaMeshulash, an NGO dedicated to serving at-risk youth. The fourth Wednesday of several more to come, as I have been and will continue to live in Israel for two months. Through a program entitled Onward Israel, I was fortunate enough to be selected and exposed to organizations in Israel which align with my range of interests. After choosing a few that stood out to me, I interviewed with and subsequently was accepted by my first choice.

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida to a Colombian mother and an Israeli father. I am fluent in Spanish, and I can get by conversationally in Hebrew. I have a passion for people; I want to devote my life to studying, understanding, and helping others. At the age of 18 I moved to Orlando, Florida in order to attend the University of Central Florida, in which I became a double major in Human Communication and Sociology with a minor in International and Global Studies. I’m pretty involved on campus; I love to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can, and in my spare time, I love to explore new places and hang out with people. I ultimately aspire to start a career in social work, specifically a career which will allow me to travel and explore new cultures.

This is not the first, nor my last, experience in Israel. In fact, I’ve visited Israel around 6 or 7 times within my 20 years of being. Since I was born and raised in the United States, I’ve had to travel to Colombia or Israel in order to see my family. However, despite the number of times I’ve come to Israel, I know that this particular experience will penetrate the superficial perception I’ve garnered on previous trips—I am here to live. Albeit it’s only for two months, it’s more time that I’ve spent consistently in any part of the world, independently.

So far, after a month of being here, I’ve been settling in and finding my way. I’ve had to adapt to walking to most places (as a Florida native, where there is no such thing as hills or mountains, I’m still not used to walking on inclines), and I’ve become less intimidated venturing into Machane Yehuda, an outdoor market in which one can negotiate prices. I’ve had Shawarma now four days in a row, and today will probably, most likely, be my fifth. I’ve adapted to life around my internship schedule, making plans with friends and family, and learning what essentials to buy and where. I’m learning how to live daily life again.

Some goals that I have for the rest of my time here are to:

  • Visit at least 5 new cities (I can cross Tel Aviv and Ashdod off already)
  • Learn enough Hebrew to the point where I can hold a general conversation without having to switch to English once
  • Make the most out of my internship experience

Despite these goals, I am, for the most part, looking forward to what each day brings. I don’t want to hold onto expectations too much, rather, I believe the most memorable experiences occur unplanned.

So, on this magnificent Wednesday, I’ve almost concluded my fourth week. This multidimensional experience, characterized by living on my own in a foreign country, interning at a cause I’m passionate about, and becoming immersed in a distinct culture, will no doubt blossom into a growth spurt. I’m looking forward to Thursday.

About the Author
Allie Vaknin is an American student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where she studies Human Communication, Sociology, and International and Global studies. She is currently participating in a two-month internship program in Jerusalem, and she is enthusiastic to share her experiences while living and working in Israel.
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