Free Spirit Experience Gap Year in Israel and Italy

Video and Photos

Off-roading searching for the night life of the Golan
Off-roading searching for the night life of the Golan
Sailboat
Sailboat
Buggies in Cyprus
Buggies in Cyprus
Rafting in northern Israel
Rafting in northern Israel
At the Kotel
At the Kotel
Dragon Boat in Italy
Dragon Boat in Italy
activity in Italy
activity in Italy
Our Young Adult Mentors for the summer
Our Young Adult Mentors for the summer

About

Free Spirit offers a unique experience in Israel and Italy, filled with adventures, work experiences, and cultural-immersion community living.

Your first semester starts with Kibbutz living, tours and trips in Israel, a 5-day sailing expedition to Cyprus, individual guidance and support, and social and group forming activities. We then move to Italy for 4 weeks of exploration and various work experiences: Pizzeria, Organic Farm-to-Restaurant-Table work, Social Activism, and more.

For your second semester, you may choose from many internship options, or build your own internship in Israel or Italy: "Ulpan" experience (intensive Hebrew learning), farming, high-tech internships, work with refugees in Tel-Aviv, "Marva" - military training for non-Israelis, and any of the Italian experiences. These vary in settings, social contexts, and levels of structure and support - all to fit your wishes and needs.

You may come for one or two semesters, and opt to stay for the summer.

Highlights
  • Find your passion through many experiences and opportunities
  • Cultural immersion in Israel and Italy
  • Adventures for lifetime memories: Kibbutz life, Sailing on the Mediterranean, Italy and Italian cooking...
  • Developing independence step by step
  • An ideal balance between support-structure and independence-freedom

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 9 reviews
  • Housing 9.1
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9.4
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 1 - 8 of 9
Default avatar
Cedric
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Free-Spirit 2019

Coming to Free Spirit in the beginning of 2019 was the start of a process which helped me set foot in life again. It was the beginning of something special, spanning from expanding my comfort zone, to learning how to take responsibility.
I was directly confronted with the reality of life again, which I was shielding myself from the last few years. The diversity of projects and activities was brilliant, from working on the Fishfarm on the kibbutz, to meeting young Israelis who themselves, struggled to get a grip back on life. The process that I underwent was tough but it payed off every day, simultaneously creating a sense of self confidence. I wasn't sure what I should expect from living on a kibbutz, but I couldn't have wanted anything else, the communal living was a wonderful setting to get a fresh taste on life again.

Default avatar
Cedric
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Free Spirit 2019

Coming to Free Spirit in the beginning of 2019 was the start of a process which helped me set foot in life again. It was the beginning of something special, spanning from expanding my comfort zone, to learning how to take responsibility.
I was directly confronted with the reality of life again, which I was shielding myself from the last few years. The diversity of projects and activities was brilliant, from working on the Fishfarm on the kibbutz, to meeting young Israelis who themselves, struggled to get a grip back on life. The process that I underwent was tough but it payed off every day, simultaneously creating a sense of self confidence. I wasn't sure what I should expect from living on a kibbutz, but I couldn't have wanted anything else, the communal living was a wonderful setting to get a fresh taste on life again

Default avatar
Jodi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Transformational Gap Year Experience for my then 18 year old child.

My child spent 3 months with Free Spirit from November 2018-February 2019 and it was an incredible experience. They managed to individualize the program to fit her needs for personal growth. The therapists are top notch, kind and supportive but firm and my daughter was unable to manipulate them.. She grew to respect them all - which was not always the case back home in Washington DC. The therapists and counselors encouraged her to address her challenges and anxieties head on and because it was 24/7 she worked through challenges in real time.

She traveled to Germany, worked on the Kibbutz, performed in the Kibbutz's Aretha Franklin tribute, traveled around Israel and most important discovered a host of reasons to truly like herself. In addition, the confidence she developed living abroad was life changing. After Israel she felt secure enough to travel to Indonesia to volunteer in a non-therapeutic program.

She is now thriving in college and credits her Free Spirit Experience with giving her many of the skills to survive all the changes that first semester of college can bring.

As a parent I loved the team at Free Spirit. They were responsive and thoughtful. I had the chance to spend time with them in Israel and was touched by how well they knew my child and all her strengths - as well as her challenges.

Default avatar
Jo
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thank You Free Spirit!

The program itself was super fun, I learned how to weld, hiked the Eilat mountains, sorted goldfish (which makes for an excellent conversation starter), and got to sing in a showcase for the entire kibbutz!! There are also weekends off where you get to live with a host family and they take care to pair you with a good match. My host family was absolutely lovely and we had a blast playing board games together, attending birthday parties, and exploring Tel Aviv.
Of course, the real highlights of the free spirit experience come from the personal growth and community you can achieve there. Free spirit helped me find who I wanted to live as and grow into my own skin more comfortably. It was at free spirit that I really felt like I started to develop a sense of who I am and stability in that. One of my good friends in the program said that I seem like someone who spent a lot of time trying to find the right box to fit into before realizing that I couldn’t fit into any and therefore just had to be me. I think that sense of self he was referring to was one of the greatest things free spirit gave me. While free spirit was a program, it felt more like a family and a community in many ways. Having been in several different programs, I know that that is special. There’s a personal element in that the counselors and the participants are friends and there to help each other as opposed to all on their own individual regimen that counselors are there to enforce. We work together and we also enjoy each other’s company and do fun things with each other. That said, it wasn’t all perfect and easygoing. I often butted heads with people in the program but the staff handled these conflicts with such diligence and compassion that I am grateful for the conflicts and the ways I was able to grow from them. The person who was the hardest for me to get along with is now one of my best friends in the whole world and has taught me to show compassion before judgement
I will forever be grateful to free spirit and everything I got from this program and the incredible people there.

Default avatar
Ezra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Unforgettable, Formative Experience

I participated in the 2018 summer program at Free Spirit, where I was a young adult mentor (I was 19 at the time). While there, I had the opportunity and the challenge to navigate the difficult status as a leader among peers. The activities during the program (wood and steelworking, backpacking, long-distance sailing, etc.) put you out of your comfort zone and bring your personal struggles to the surface. For me, I was in extremely uncomfortable situations where, due to my role as a mentor, I needed to be a mediator and "play the bad guy" even though my own anxiety disorder and issues with compartmentalization compelled me to withdraw, bottle things up, and eventually "explode" emotionally.

Despite this (and also because of it), I view Free Spirit as one of the most empowering, meaningful, and formative experiences of my life. The staff knows what they're doing; they are people you feel you can confide in and who work closely with Tamir and Nili to provide useful advice and implementable coping skills to each individual participant. It also goes almost without saying that many of the locations we visited in Israel and in Cyprus (that sailing trip I mentioned) were spectacular, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The main thing that differentiates Free Spirit from other therapeutic programs is its emphasis on personal choice. There aren't a whole lot of restrictions that people who are familiar with therapeutic programs may be used to (and loathe); the consequences of choices you make, positive or negative, are instead used as jumping-off points to assess, correct, and modify behavioral patterns. For that reason and the others I mentioned, I would highly recommend Free Spirit because it can break therapeutic ground in ways that other programs often can't while simultaneously providing an unforgettable experience in the process.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
We did a 24-hour sailing trip from Haifa to Limassol, Cyprus, where we spent a weekend. While there, we went cliff jumping. I have a terrible fear of heights but I was able to gain the resolve (after a lot of encouragement from my peers -- and a passing cruise ship!) to take the leap.
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itamar
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

my experience

I started at free spirit with a week long trip to Italy which was one of the best things i ever did. i returned in the summer to be a mentor for younger participants and it was an incredible journey during which i learned how to find my value while helping other people with their struggles. whenever i was in a bad place i could always count on the staff and my fellow mentors to help me raise from it. there are difficult parts like the hikes and the sailing but the feeling of satisfaction at the end makes it all worth it. i can promise you will be a better person at the end of this program.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
never isolate yourself. you can make bonds here that will stay with you forever.
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Adam
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible opportunity to get to know yourself and make lifelong relationships

This is an absolutely wonderful program. The staff were all incredibly supportive and knowledgeable and the adventures and excursions were all so exciting and full of opportunity. Going to Cyprus on the sailboats was an amazing time and all the trips within Israel and Italy taught me so much. The people I got to share these experiences with helped me build relationships I know will last me forever. I know that Tamir, Rami, Tzahi and all the other staff will be there for me whenever I need them from now on even though I've already graduated! This program has helped me feel much more in touch with myself, and helped me learn what I'm capable of and I will always be grateful for the time I was able to spend with Free Spirit!

What would you improve about this program?
I don't think there's anything I'd improve. Everything was so balanced and well rounded.
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Ava
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

10/10

I am so grateful for this program. It helped me find the ability within myself to deal with and manage conflict, anxiety, and what is important to have healthy relationship. It also gave me the opportunity to discover what I am truly passionate about and taught me that I have the tools in my life to make an effort to achieve my goals. I would absolutely recommend this program to a friend or family member. I hope whoever reads this, reads it with an open mind and won’t be afraid to take a chance and try to better themselves which in turn will better those around them.

What would you improve about this program?
I feel as if this program had such a large impact on my life and I don’t feel as if anything should be altered. I do not think that this program needs any sort of improvement as it was extremely beneficial