International Cooperative Education – A job that Exceeds Expectations
I got this e-mail below in the fall from Ruth Wyshogrod (NU ’10) and with some deletions of names and a little light editing on which we have agreed, I thought it had to be posted on the blog as it represents the kind of serious position a student can have in work abroad and the kind of growth that can come from it. She will be back in classes at Northeastern in the Winter term.
I write you this e-mail as I take a break from work at my office in Herzeliya Pituach, an office park outside of Tel Aviv. For over a month now (although it has actually been much less because of all the Jewish holidays) I have been working at ———, a business and foreign affairs consulting firm, started by a former Deputy Prime Minister and Member of Knesset —– ——-. —– was an active participant in the Oslo Peace Process, and initiated the Geneva Peace Initiative. Though he is still active in the Geneva process, he officially left politics a year ago and opened this company. It is relative new, therefore, and very small – only 7 people total. The disadvantage is that things are often disorganized or informal, but this has been an advantage for me, as I, without even an undergraduate degree, have taken part in several important meetings where decisions were made that significantly impact the company and its partners. I had my doubts about working for a for-profit company, as ultimately I had to choose between working here or at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, a well-established non-profit that does all sorts of peacemaking activities. I weighed my options and decided that, since I already have experience in the non-profit world, this would be an interesting experiment – and that is what co-op is for, isn’t it?
I liked the company because it combines the aspects of international affairs and business that interests me, that I first became interested in during Professor ———-‘s Microfinance seminar last year. This is a little “bigger” than microfinance, but I see a connection. The company for which I work in Israel, in many cases, attempts to pursue business ventures that have some form of a global cause or benefit. For example, the company is working with the Gulf States to export Israeli agricultural technology and healthcare cooperative systems. They are also working on bringing this technology to the West Bank by using connections in the Palestinian government. Of course, they still seek a profit, and so not every single project is globally-motivated; but the company does not work with rogue states or companies who do business that supports terrorism, etc. I find my work to be not always that engaging, but overall very relevant to my studies. Recently I have been researching potential electoral candidates in European federal and state elections, for a company that runs elections campaigns, as well as doing some translation of the former Deputy Prime Minister’s articles.
Working in Israel does not feel like “international co-op”, because I simply feel that I am at home. I have been here since July, and have been grappling with some identity issues, trying to understand if I am more Israeli or more American, or at least which culture I identify with more, or if trying to define such a thing is even possible. I haven’t come up with many answers, only more questions… but that’s OK, since I am still only 19 years old… Living in Tel Aviv seems almost as natural to me as living in Boston. I’m sure the fact that I speak the local language, in more than just a literal sense, has a lot to do with it. I live right near the beach, and about a 15 minute walk from Yaffo. Every morning I run on the beach, training for the Nike Human Race, a 10k night run at the end of October that takes place in various cities worldwide, including Tel Aviv. I am taking dance classes at a local studio, and volunteering at the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa, where I tutor Arab children with their homework… so I get to use my Arabic a little bit too. Next week is Sukkot, and Israel gets a week of vacation, so I am going to Istanbul for 5 days with some friends.
As I have heard happens while on co-op, and especially abroad, I feel a little disconnected from Northeastern. Although I still have 3 months here, I am a little worried about the adjustment back – to schoolwork, to America, to life as a college student… though ultimately, I’m sure I will be fine.