By Meredith van der Walde
(Summer Intern at Bakehila; 20-year-old college student from Massachusetts)
Though I had spent months toying with the idea of spending my summer in Jerusalem, my decision to travel to Israel came to fruition just weeks before my plane took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. During this time, my thoughts were consumed by the notion of finding the perfect internship. Since I had previously heard that Israel does not have an "internship culture"—meaning interns are not as commonly utilized in the workplace as they are in the United States—I became a bit worried. I began to wonder, would there be enough for me to do?
I firmly believe that internships for college students have a dual purpose; they have the capacity to benefit both the interns and the organization. Having an internship enables young people to acquire professional experience in their field of interest and to foster connections via networking. It is important to recognize, however, that the focus should not solely be on what the intern can gain. The intern has a responsibility to positively contribute to the mission of his/her organization as well.
As my departure date for Israel became closer, I still did not have a position solidified. It seemed to me that perhaps my idealistic expectation of a summer internship—one in which I would be able to learn from the people around me, explore potential career interests, and work at an organization devoted to social justice—would not be satisfied.
I had previously described to my Internship Coordinator, Noah, the type of organization that I could realistically see myself working at during the summer. I explained to him that I am extremely passionate about helping individuals from vulnerable populations advance in society. Though I have previous experience advocating for domestic workers and homeless families, I told Noah that I was eager to work with any group of people in need of assistance and support.
After perusing Bakehila's website, I learned that this organization has a mission grounded in social and economic justice. Bakehila provides children and teens from disadvantaged neighborhoods with necessary tools to overcome socioeconomic barriers and prosper in society.
I tend to throw around the term "social justice" quite frequently, particularly when explaining to others potential career paths that I want to pursue post-graduation, namely non-profit work and/or law. Even though I have only interned at Bakehila for a little over one week, I can already tell that the organization embodies what I stand for and believe in: helping people, community impact, and change.