By Rebecca Kerzner
Life after college sound daunting to you? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Abby Adler, alum of Stern College (Class of 2017) felt pretty clueless upon her exiting college. She debated and weighed her options for a couple months, and then finally decided to pick up and go to Israel to join the army! Read on to hear about the good and the bad of post grad life and get a different perspective. 😜
Rebecca Kerzner: So what did you study in college?
Abby Adler: I majored in English Lit, which was definitely lit. Professor Miller was my English advisor, so naturally, I decided on a concentration in Creative Writing. My friends called it a BS major, but I called it pursuing my passion for the written word. I also minored in marketing to get some “practical” skills under my belt, and also so my friends would shut up. In all seriousness, though, my goal was to be able to put my creativity to use in the real world.
RK: How did you get to deciding you wanted to go to Israel?
AA: I knew I wanted to go back to Israel ever since I went on my gap year, Young Judaea Shalem. That year was so special to me, the year I became truly comfortable in my own skin and developed a deep love for Israel – a love so deep that I knew I had to come back one day. The original plan was to become a “madricha” on Shalem post-college, alas, I found out that Shalem wasn’t a thing anymore by the time senior year came around. Because I spent all of college thinking I was going to a “madricha,” I was like, “what the hell do I do now?”
All I knew was that I wanted to contribute to Israeli society in some shape or form before I started working. I spent the entire summer after graduation researching different opportunities in Israel, until someone suggested I join the Army. At first I didn’t take that option seriously, assuming I was too old as a college grad to be serving alongside 18-year-old Israelis who were fresh out of high school. But the more I looked into it, the more appealing and meaningful it sounded. I ultimately told myself, “well, it’s now or never!”
RK: How was the process of getting into the army?
AA: Honestly, it was difficult and unstable. I only wanted to draft for a year, so Garin Tzabar wasn’t an option for me because it requires you to sign on for at least two years. I couldn’t sign on to Mahal either because I’m an Israeli citizen.
My last option was to draft independently from a lone soldier program. It essentially consisted of me stalking the Israeli consulate for several months to get a date for my “tzav rishon” (First Order), until they finally told me that I have to physically be in the country for the IDF to pay any attention to me. So I flew to Israel without having any idea when my “tzav rishon” would be, crashing by friends and family until I received a response. Luckily, the Consulate pulled through for me and my “tzav rishon” was set up within the week once I was in Israel. After the total mess that was my tzav rishon, my draft date was set for March 2018, but I was way too eager to wait till then so I tried to move my draft date earlier.
I found out about Course Moledet, a basic training program for “olim” with a high level of Hebrew, from a friend that was drafting into the course November 2017. I turned my stalking levels up a notch with the Israeli Consulate, and eventually, they set up an interview with the Army to see if I was “fit” for the course. During the interview, they told me that I matched the type of person that would be in the course, but at this point, there was no room left. I had pretty much given up at this point and accepted the March draft date, until they called me a week before the draft date of the course and told me a spot had opened up. I was like “Oh my god, thank you so much! You have no idea how much this means to me!” and the Israeli girl on the other end was like “ ‘kay, relax.” She thought I was an overly enthusiastic crazy American, but I didn’t care. I felt so blessed that day, like I had finally made a breakthrough. All my efforts and stalkery had finally made a dent in the IDF’s exterior. They were finally letting me in to their ridiculously disorganized military!
For those that are interested in drafting post-grad and are willing to commit to two years, I would definitely suggest drafting with a program, because drafting independently was really rough. If not, plan in advance, take on my “stalker” approach and hope to get lucky like I did. You gotta fight as hard as you can when it comes to anything army-related.
Two months later, I’m officially reppin’ in the International Cooperation unit!
RK: Have you experienced Israeli culture?
AA: For sure! I’ve mostly been in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which are the cultural hubs of Israel. Living in Midtown Manhattan as a Sternie spoiled me, and now I can’t see myself living anywhere that isn’t a city. There’s always something happening in both cities, whether it be food, music, or nightlife. Tel Aviv is the closest thing Israel has to NYC, so they’re always trying to keep up. There was a super fun screening of The Lion King at a Tel Aviv bar, and inspirational drunk poetry slams in English at least once a month. And the shuk in Jerusalem is always popping!
Outside of city life, a couple of girls and I rented a car and road-tripped to the Kineret and went camping. We drove along the beach, so it was really scenic, and there were so many hiking opps along the way! It’s one of my best memories from the beginning of my time here.
Another one of the highlights I’ve experienced since arriving here in September was getting to see Static and Ben El Tavori – a pop music dynamic duo equivalent to America’s Justin Bieber – live at Bar Ilan University’s orientation. And let me tell you, those boys can get it!
Also, I’m slowly but surely learning how to be as assertive as the stereotypical Israeli, which isn’t my natural persona. After dealing with the army’s shenanigans though, I think I’m getting there.
RK: What do you miss the most about Stern?
AA: Oh god, what do I not miss about Stern?! I miss having the city that never sleeps at my fingertips, just being to able to experience so much bustling life and culture everytime I left the dorms. Free ice-skating at Bryant Park was a blessing during the winter, and Upright Citizens’ Brigade (UCB) always kept their content funny and fresh. Some people got sick of the constant noise and activity, but I lived for it.
I miss all the clubs I was involved in (shout-out to YAS, Shield News, and the Observer), and all the shits and giggles that went down in all of them. I miss waiting for every single magical Thursday night in anticipation, and discussing the drama went down over iced coffee and hash browns at Dunkin’/ in the caf the following Friday morning. I miss fighting my way onto the shuttle, whether it be as a sober Spartan or as an intoxicated imbecile. Either way, I definitely did both with style. I miss convincing people to get Golan with me instead of studying in the library during reading week, and six-dollar sesame will always have a special place in my heart. Oh, and I miss the English department. The English department was top-notch!
Most of all, I miss the people. There was so much authenticity and uniqueness in one place. I found my true-blue homies for life at Stern, friends that I know are forever. I miss how damn easy it was to just hang out with friends, anytime and anywhere. The closeness of your friends in college is always taken for granted, and I especially miss how simple it was to just send a text and have your favorite people right in front of you. Ugh, Stern was such a special place.
RK: What’s your plan for after the army?
AA: I guess you could say the rest is still unwritten. I still have no idea if I wanna end up in Israel or New York, because I’ve been conflicted between the two places pretty much my entire life. I do know that no matter where I end up, I’m finally going to put my writing skills to work. I’m leaning more towards writing for women’s interest, but nothing too “basic.” I want to be Carrie Bradshaw, but way cooler.
I want to be clever, funny, and innovative! I want to stand out! Just like every other writer in the world. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I know it’s gonna be good. My ideal life post-Army is living like “Girls”, except I actually have my shit together. Israelis are all about “leezrom” (go with the flow), and I’m trying to get into that mindset. I’m just gonna go with the flow for now.
RK: What were your feelings during your last year?
AA: I didn’t want to graduate at all during my last year. A lot of my friends were ready for the next chapter in life, but I certainly wasn’t. I was having such a blast, and I wasn’t ready for it to end just yet. I was desperately trying to hang onto my final days as a youthful, flirty, thriving collegiate. I was convinced that life just wasn’t as fun after college, but I’ve since discovered that was from the truth. Yes, life does get more challenging and there’s so much more responsibility to handle, but as they say, “with great responsibility comes great reward.” College was freaking incredible, but I’ve learned and experienced so many different things – good and bad – since graduating. So for those graduating this year, I need to pass on the following generic statement: “don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened!” For real. These are words of wisdom to help you truly appreciate your last year of college instead of totally freaking out.
Also, my mom got me “Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy-ish Steps” by Kelly Williams Brown for graduation, and it’s been super helpful in my adjustment to the real world. I would highly recommend, just saying.
RK: What was your preferred caf meal?
AA: I was all about the carbs at Stern! The Freshman 15 couldn’t touch me! It was pizza rolls, Tiberias paninis, and avocado sushi – all day, every day! Clearly, I had a healthy and balanced diet at Stern. I drool just thinking about those pizza rolls. If any Sternies are coming through to Israel anytime soon, could you guys bring those pizza rolls? Asking for a friend.