Unexpected Adventure

By Matt Hawkins
September 30, 2014

Air raid sirens and rockets exploding overhead might end most people’s trips to the Middle East. However, those sounds faded into the background soundtrack for senior Abby Baron’s July internship in Israel.

Baron ’14, a special education major from Northbrook, Illinois, planned to spend the month working at the Tel Aviv Center for the Blind, but plans changed two days after her arrival. Instead of only working with people who are visually impaired, she also worked with people who have cerebral palsy.

That’s because the cerebral palsy center in a nearby community moved its residents to Tel Aviv for safety when war broke out between Israel and Hamas two days after Baron arrived.

Baron, a natural improviser, took the disruption in stride.

“You never know when something will interfere with your plans,” she said. “It’s OK if Plan A doesn’t work. A lot of times, I thought of things on the spot.”

Rocket sirens typically sounded several times a day and sent Tel Aviv residents scrambling for shelter as Israel’s Iron Dome rockets roared overhead.

“I know it’s crazy to say, but I became used to it,” Baron said. “I wasn’t scared because we learned what to do in case of emergency.”

Despite the war soundtrack to the trip, the unexpected setting challenged Baron to communicate across a language barrier to people with varying functional abilities. She utilized previous summer camp leadership experiences, music knowledge and limited Hebrew vocabulary to communicate.

“It was trial-and-error, but it worked,” she said. “If one way wasn’t working, I tried until something did. That will benefit me in the classroom because I’ll have to adapt to students with different needs.”

Despite language differences, Baron took time to explore Israel and to listen to people’s perspectives on current events. She enjoyed conversations with visually impaired people she assisted, plus she followed Middle Eastern media and interacted with Israelis as she wandered about the country.

Unlike several of her previous Israel visits, this trip allowed her to experience the country on her own terms.

“I enjoyed it because I was able to go on walks, experience things and integrate myself into the culture,” Baron said. “I’ve always been very independent, so I was able to utilize my resources. I had to figure things out because I couldn’t Google or Mapquest them.”

The trip, through Young Judea Amirim, an organization that provides cultural experiences for Jewish people across the world, was partially funded through Bradley’s Springer Center for Internships. The Springer Center’s Internship Fund Award provides funding for internships that are unpaid or partially funded. It provided 17 interns this summer with a total of $15,500.

Because of the extra contribution, Baron was able to experience the unexpected adventure of a lifetime.

“I learn more from real-life experiences than the classroom,” she said. “I experienced much more from this trip than I ever could through any history lesson.”