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Back to Israel with Onward

by Deanna Schwartz | Jul 12, 2021 |

It’s a sign of returning normalcy — Onward Israel is back on.

The storied internship program is returning for another summer full of networking, valuable work experience, and connections to the holy land.

328 students across 14 campuses are participating in the 8-week internship on Hillel-partnered programs this summer. Over 1,800 Onward Israel participants are currently in Israel. 

Group photo of Onward ParticipantsFor Shayna Cohen, a rising senior at the University of Florida, her Onward Israel experience has been a long time coming. Cohen was supposed to participate in Onward Israel in 2020, but wasn’t able to due to the program’s pandemic-related cancellation.

Cohen, a marketing major, is working as a content partners manager at ACT Foodtech, a startup incubator.

“I’ve never been to Israel before and have wanted to go for as long as I can remember,” Cohen said. “I think it’ll be a once in a lifetime experience where I can make lifelong friends and memories.”

Cohen is one of 62 students from the University of Florida participating in the Onward Israel program this year.

“I’m most looking forward to the professional experience I’ll get working at ACT Foodtech this summer,” Cohen said. “I’m really interested in learning about start up companies so this is such a great opportunity.”

Ashley Jones, the IACT associate at University of Florida Hillel, said Onward Israel was particularly competitive this year. 117 students applied, with only 62 getting accepted.

Onward participants at Nuva“We have students across a wide variety of fields,” Jones said. “We have people in business, engineering, pre-med, pre-law. All of our pre-med students are doing an internship with Magen David Adom, where they're going to be certified in emergency training and whatnot.”

At Cornell University Hillel, 37 students are spending eight weeks in Tel Aviv.

Tatiana Uklist, former IACT coordinator for Cornell Hillel, said the original plan for the program was to be hybrid, but they opted to switch to entirely in-person.

Onward Israel is taking COVID precautions by requiring an entry quarantine period and safety precautions to avoid overcrowding, Uklist said. Vaccines aren’t required, but they’re highly encouraged, and vaccinated students are able to test out of quarantine.

“Because Israel is more advanced in beating COVID than the United States, a lot of students will be able to get more hands on experience in Israel than in the U.S.,” Uklist said.

Jessica Lewis, the IACT coordinator at Texas Hillel, said the University of Texas at Austin is sending 38 students to Onward Israel this year.

“Our students at UT are super driven and motivated,” Lewis said, noting that some sought out their own internships if they were unable to find one through the program. One student, Lewis mentioned, is working with a CBD company.

“[Onward Israel] is not only going to help them with professional development and resume building, but also the fact that it’s in Israel and they’re able to immerse themselves in Israeli work culture,” Lewis said. They’ll emerge with a newfound understanding of how to work with others around the world.

Jones stressed the importance of having an in-person work experience for students participating in Onward Israel. 

Students in front of graffiti“This is their first opportunity for a normal working-living situation, something that they haven't experienced in a while,” Jones said. “They get this incredible opportunity to go overseas and do an internship on the ground with these companies. It’s an incredible opportunity and it will look amazing on their resumes afterwards.”

“We have not been able to travel and experience life for the past year with the pandemic,” Cohen said. “Being able to finally explore the world and meet people is such a great opportunity. Especially being able to stay for the whole summer, it will be great to learn the culture, language, and more while in Israel!”





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