Interning in Tel Aviv, Israel

Over the past summer I had the amazing opportunity to intern in Tel Aviv, Israel as part of a program called Onward Israel. During this 8-week internship I lived, traveled, and got to understand better the Israeli culture and how working abroad differs to working in the United States. At Kent State I study fashion merchandising and I have a minor in marketing. While I was in Tel Aviv I worked alongside Elisha Abargel, an Israeli designer based in Tel Aviv.

Working with Elisha has been one of the most rewarding work experiences I’ve had thus far. Elisha’s studio is located on the bottom level of his store so everything was made in house, and being able to see ideas go from sketches to garments in just a few days was so inspiring. Most days consisted of me arriving to the store and getting set up on the computer for the tasks Elisha needed me to complete that day. I mostly focused on taking photographs of both clients in the store and the garments he was creating, which Elisha could then use for his social media platforms and website. Besides photography I was also tasked with doing market research, outreach to various clients in the United States, creating lookbooks for Elisha, and helping out at photo shoots in Tel Aviv.

Being able to have interned in Tel Aviv with Elisha opened my eyes to how working abroad can be so different to having a similar job title in the United States. While most of my other friends were also completing summer internships throughout different states, our day to day lives varied completely.

You can’t dismiss that living in Tel Aviv has the amazing perk of being right by the Mediterranean Sea. My apartment was located one block away from Gordon Beach which gave me the opportunity to explore the boardwalk as frequently as I wanted. Since I got out of work normally around 4:00 pm and it took around twenty minutes to get back home on the bus, I had the opportunity to meet my roommates at the beach after work for a few hours. We also lucked out on having an incredible apartment with a view of the beach every day.

With all great things in life there are going to come with some difficulties. So while living and working abroad was a dream come true, it did come with it's own hurdles I had to overcome throughout the summer in Israel.

First things first: Language barrier. The language barrier was probably the hardest thing for me to overcome in my two months I was in Israel. Hebrew is the main language spoken in Israel, followed by Arabic and English. So while English is spoken there and most signs throughout the country have three languages written on them, you will come in contact with Hebrew the vast majority of the time. At work most people spoke English, but we did have many clients come in to the door that spoke just Hebrew. When this happened I would have to step to the side and just let Elisha speak with them, since there wasn't much I could do in that situation. Being able to read non-verbal cues also allowed me to piece together the conversation a lot of the times. While I wish I had known more Hebrew before arriving to Israel, this barrier allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and push myself to learn how to say new things to be able to have conversations with a variety of people. From the bus drivers to the cashiers at the supermarkets, I realized very quickly I couldn't just depend on my English or Spanish as I had done in other countries I’ve visited.

Secondly, Israel observes Jewish customs which means that come Friday afternoon most stores and restaurants close for Shabbat and don’t open until either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Since Shabbat takes up this time, you have to make sure you have everything you need for the weekend because most supermarkets close as well during Shabbat. Buses also cease operation during Shabbat. This causes the Israeli work week to begin on Sunday and end on Thursday, which was something that took me a while to get used to.

The hardest hurdle I had to overcome was explaining to others what it was like living and working in a country that is often negatively portrayed in the media and is seen as being “unsafe”. While living in Tel Aviv I never felt like harm would come to me or that something bad would happen at any time. I took the bus as anyone would take a bus in a busy city, such as New York City or London. I went to the supermarket and bought my groceries the same as anyone would in Kent, Ohio or Miami, Florida. I traveled throughout the country, both with friends and independently. I never feared for my life.

Living and working abroad, especially in Tel Aviv, opened my eyes to how brands conduct work overseas and how they view Western culture and ways of life. I’ve always thought of myself as having global perspective, but living in a completely new country surrounded by new customs and languages truly opens your eyes to how important it is to be accepting of people outside of your home country. I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity this past summer.