We are going to take a few posts to explore the internship experience at NYU Tel Aviv. To begin, we spoke with Ilana Goldberg, Internship Coordinator and Instructor at NYU Tel Aviv. She explained that the internship program was first created by Debra London, one of the people who set up the study away site at NYU Tel Aviv. Debra’s focus was on internships in non-profits and human rights organizations, but since then the program has expanded to include businesses, startups, think tanks, research centers, and art institutions.
According to Ilana, “Internships are the single most effective way for students to immerse in local culture and meet Israelis, and get insider perspectives on life in Israel. Most students seek internships in a field that they want exposure to as part of career exploration, although some take advantage of the opportunity to do something adventurous that isn’t necessarily related to their major or explicit career choices. For those who choose a field that is related to their major, gaining experience in a work environment provides opportunities to really confront theory and practice and see how they interrelate in regard to real-world dilemmas. For example, a business student may gain experience with a cutting edge methodology for creating lean business plans, and confront this experience with more traditional methods taught in the classroom. Or, a student interested in universal human rights can see how advocating for specific rights, such as workers’ rights or the right of movement plays out in a specific national and political context.”
All the internships are unpaid and therefore come under the umbrella of NYU Tel Aviv’s academic activity, although students can choose whether to pursue the internship for credit or not. Students who wish to earn credit for their internships must enroll in the internship seminar, attend classes, and fulfill all the associated academic assignments. For the final paper, they undertake a small research project that brings an academic perspective to bear on some aspect of their placement and intern experience.
To find suitable placements, Ilana begins with the applications that students submitted to the Office of Global studies. From this she learns about their college majors and declared interests. She then contacts students individually and requests updated resumes and sometimes also a writing sample or portfolio. In most cases she will also initiate a Skype interview, in order to get to know their personality a bit better, and help clarify and narrow down their interests. Based on the student’s interests, and academic and professional profile, Ilana tries to match them with organizations NYU Tel Aviv has worked with in the past or she reaches out to new organizations, in order to optimize the fit. The next step is making the connection between the student and the organization or company. At this point the student and recruiter at the organization take the lead and arrange an interview, and sometimes students will be asked to perform an assignment to evaluate their skills. The organization or company makes the final determination. Since some internships are very competitive, Ilana will sometimes refer students to two or more organizations simultaneously.
In most cases, the matching process works extremely well, but sometimes placement sites want to wait to meet the student in person, and things are only finalized after arrival. For the uncommon event that a placement falls through in the last minute, Ilana tries to access additional backup options.
The first weeks of the semester can be colored by a little uncertainty, and some patience is required until the student begins to adjust and feel comfortable at the placement. All the students in the internship program are offered continual support in dealing with workplace issues and dilemmas throughout the semester, both Ilana and the Assistant Director for Academics, Edan Raviv.
Ilana finds that, “Every semester ends with a crop of very satisfying and rewarding experiences for students. Many times students feel that their internship has been life changing, either because they have been empowered by the responsibilities and tasks they were given, or because they overcame personal challenges. Often students speak of being exposed to a reality that was eye-opening for them, and were proud of their ability to assimilate new information, overcome language and cultural barriers, and make a contribution or impact in an unfamiliar setting. A unique characteristic of the Israeli workplace is that young people are given a lot of credit and autonomy, and so if a student is really dedicated to learning and developing skills, they are likely to be entrusted with meaningful work, and frequently have significant accomplishments to show by the end.”