Jesse Yaker: Interning in Israel
Sept. 13, 2017
Summer plans are always one of concern for a college student. Students get started months in advance in hopes of finding the right internship, job or program to take part in while they have some time away from school.
This past summer, I was lucky enough to be offered an opportunity as an intern in Israel. I applied to a program through Tel Aviv University that matched me with an internship in the area based on the counselor’s idea of what we would fit well with. After acceptance, I was interviewed by the university, and then the internship matching process began.
I interviewed with three different companies in the Tel Aviv area until I found Lingui English4Kidz. Lingui is a start-up company based in Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv. Lingui was founded in 2014 by current CEO Yafit Ido-Greenapple. She founded Lingui with one goal in mind – to teach kids English and other languages before the age of 6.
Research has proved that studying languages at young ages makes it easier for children to learn and also less likely to be forgotten over the years. Yafit wanted to take advantage of this. Lingui started with just Yafit handling all tutoring, but when the classes became too much for her to handle, she began finding other people to teach.
Currently, there are about 25 tutors employed by Lingui, all taught personally by Yafit to ensure the Lingui lessons are all of the same quality. Using kid-friendly curriculum, Lingui is employed by more than 30 kindergarten and daycares in Israel, along with handling more than 100 personal lessons every week.
The convenient thing about the program is that it is treated like a study abroad. I paid tuition at Tel Aviv University in exchange for room and board and also three credits for my time there. During my time working for them, I was not paid, but I was reimbursed for all travel expenses traveling to work and was also treated to several meals and gifts purely from their generosity, something they promote strongly in Israel.
Additionally, I took one class about career development that met once weekly at the university. We met with Jonathan Smilansky, an Israeli who specializes in career services and has worked for the University of Chicago in addition to Tel Aviv University.
During our seven meetings, we learned about networking, getting into the field after graduating and what we need to do to give ourselves the best chance to get hired for the job we want as soon as possible after graduation.
On another note, Tel Aviv is an incredible city that could be explored for years with new discoveries made all the time. I was lucky enough to live on Tel Aviv University’s beautiful campus, in a neighborhood just north of downtown Tel Aviv known as Ramat Aviv.
My home was about a 30-minute bus ride to central Tel Aviv. It was perfect because we were just outside the city enough to not deal with the constant noise and lights, but close enough to go in whenever we wanted. Plus, I was no more than a short walk from a grocery store, mall and a 24-hour convenience store, and only a short bus ride or walk from the world famous Tel Aviv beaches. While all of Israel is incredible, Tel Aviv remains unbeaten because of the scenery (that coast is incredible), food and nightlife.
As thrilled as I was to be working with such a cool company, it is no secret that this was not something I was going to be able use directly in my future. Being a political science/pre-law major, I was originally looking for a chance to work in a government position or with a law firm. When nothing in this field was available, I jumped at the idea of working with kids, working with language and working in a WeWork space (which I’ll explain more later).
I did all of this and got to explore business and entrepreneurship fields, which I previously had never seen myself succeeding in. Now, after getting such an amazing opportunity, I not only respect and admire all those who get to work in business, but I would love to somehow integrate the experience I got into the career I plan on pursuing in law. Although it was not the perfect fit for me, I gained great experience in this internship and made some connections that will help me for years to come.
Arriving in Israel in early June was very exciting, and I knew once I got the chance to start working I would fall in love. When I started a couple days later, that was exactly what happened. I immediately committed myself to getting involved in as many different aspects of the company as I could. Whether it was marketing, finances, tutoring, legal work, etc., I made sure to have a part in it.
Some of my more frequent tasks were market research, creating presentations for potential investors, financial reports and creating reports with information on potential activities for the tutoring sessions. Among other things, these duties made my experience very interesting.
With such a broad range of tasks, I was able to experience many great parts of interning such as working with upper management, individual research tasks, investor meetings and working with the actual product, in this case the tutoring sessions.
These are skills that any person in the work force would be excited to gain. I know that the chance to see a company from this side so early in my professional career will benefit me no matter what I end up doing in life. Being able to play such an important role in a company that was still young in its start-up phase was an eye-opening experience to what life after college is going to be like.
Although it was a little overwhelming at times, I know I will look back on the opportunity and all that I did thanking everyone who helped me get it. The experience I gained could not have been gained in any other way besides being thrown into a real-life scenario. It is a great skill to be able to lead, which is one of many things I was doing with Lingui.
An interesting part of Israeli work life is that interns are not common in their workforce like they are in the American one. Most people interning in Israel are Americans or working for an American company in Israel. This results in a vastly different experience for interns in Israel versus American ones.
This difference has some pros and some cons to it. One of the big pros is the intern being given the workload of a full-time employee. I personally enjoyed this because, as I mentioned earlier, I was able to see all sorts of different aspects of the company. Being given such a big role prepared me better for the real world.
This can also be a con though, because they would sometimes stick me with tasks that I was unqualified for and then become unavailable to help. On the other end of the spectrum, there were times that I was left with little to do because my superiors would be busy handling other stuff and not be able to come into the office. Interning in another country is a truly unique experience.
As previously mentioned, my internship took place in a WeWork space in the Herzliya area just north of downtown Tel Aviv-Yafo. WeWork started in 2010 with the vision of turning office buildings into collaborative workspaces. Any start-up company can rent space at a WeWork building, where their employees will be working side-by-side with hundreds of other start-ups, no matter what the company’s visions are.
These differences bring, for example, a start-up company looking to make tutoring easy for kids who want to learn an extra language together with a start-up that is offering web design services. This is the exact case of Lingui. Lingui alone found their legal consultant, financial consultant and web designer through leasing at a WeWork space.
Knowing that I was a prospective law student, my boss at Lingui even got me in contact with her legal consultant and was able to get me some experience with him in his firm. Working in this environment was especially interesting for me, as being able to see so many different companies working under one roof together showed me a side of the professional world that I was not aware existed. Along with the networking benefits, WeWork buildings provide many common areas, both social ones and quiet ones to complete work. They also provide a full kitchen area, and many meeting rooms. It is truly a dynamic workspace that was a pleasure to work in.
All in all, my seven weeks in Tel Aviv were everything I had ever dreamed of. Leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I was surrounded by beauty and an amazing culture with some great people, working a job that was everything I could hope it would be. Between my work experience, social life in Tel Aviv and traveling around the country, there is no more I could ask for. I plan to stay in contact with my former bosses at Lingui and all the great friends I made on the trip. I could not have asked for a better work experience and overall time in Israel.