Students Build Professional Skills Through Onward

Alyssa Miller, a student at the University of Maryland, worked in Israel last summer for Israelevitz Architects as part of an eight-week internship program through Baltimore Onward Israel.

Alyssa says that living and working in Tel Aviv-Yafo, provided her the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the people of Israel, immersing herself in the country’s culture and strengthening Jewish connections.

What did you do for Israelevitz Architects? 
I interned for Israelevitz Architects, a private architecture firm in Southern Tel Aviv. Specifically, I worked with their interior design department utilizing a program that highlights different sections of a house so that the carpenter can make custom units for those rooms.

What was the advantage of going to Israel and doing this versus having an internship somewhere in the States? 
In Israel, you’re treated like an employee, which is what I wanted to do rather than getting coffee or copying papers. In the States, part of becoming a licensed architect is pursuing an internship. This means I would be competing with kids who have completed graduate school. Working in Israel, I learned more about my intended area of study from a professional standpoint and felt that my employers and supervisors valued my work.

How do you think this will help you in your career next year and in the future? 
I think because there were no other kids in the office, I was held to a different standard. I was forced to elevate my skills which will be an advantage over my peers since more was expected from me this past summer.

What were some of your favorite parts about Onward Israel? 
Living in Yafo and being outside of Tel Aviv proper was a highlight because it was nice to have a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. I enjoyed a lot of our ‘Israel nowadays’ when we’d go out to see different cities. I think that’s important because we need to remember we’re not just there to work, we were there to experience the culture in the country as well.

What was the greatest, positive surprise of this experience? 
Overall, I was surprised by how welcoming people were. Israelis were honest and friendly whether I was walking down the street, going to a restaurant, or having a conversation with a taxi driver. Having gone to day school, I spoke Hebrew. People were pleasantly surprised to hear and encouraged me to speak Hebrew even if I was embarrassed by my accent or forgot a couple of words.

What was your weekend away or Shabbaton like? 
I went to the Negev and stayed on a Kibbutz about 30 minutes south of Be’er Sheva. We learned about different minorities – the Bedouins and the Ethiopian communities in Israel. Often, Americans assume that the only issue that Israel has is safety, security and defense, but we talked a lot about racism, healthcare, failing infrastructure and other issues that Americans aren’t necessarily aware of. I really enjoyed doing learning about that.

So, you’ve been to Israel before, but what was new this time besides working? 
All my other trips we had gone to the Western Wall, the Dead Sea, rode a camel and so on. I think this is the first time that I really felt immersed in the culture and that I got to know the people.

If you were telling a friend about the program, what would you tell them? Why should they sign up? 
I would tell someone to sign up for Baltimore Onward Israel because I think the program gives you an internship that you would not have the ability to pursue in the States. People in Israel like to work hard and play hard because it is a fun country and a fun culture, but we were also there to learn. If you want a summer where you can have fun but also learn and grow, I think that Onward is a great way to do that.

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