Alison Avigayil Ramer '09 is taking her first steps on a newly discovered career path: Trying her hand at freelance reporting, she scored two page-one articles this month in Haaretz, Israel's oldest and most prestigious newspaper.
Ramer spent the fall 2007 semester in Israel through the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, then took a leave of absence to remain in Israel for another semester.
"I was interested in moving to Israel, but I needed to take time to explore what living outside of the United States would be like. I decided to take a year away from Mount Holyoke and a semester off from school to focus on my career goals," she said.
Ramer hadn't decided on a career goal before going to Israel, but while there she decided she wanted to be a Jewish writer and began looking for internships that would "give me a taste of different writing opportunities here." She found an internship at Haaretz, but left after a month when she discovered it wasn't what she expected; to support herself, she soon started freelance writing for online publications.
"Although I wasn't writing about what I was passionate about--online gaming isn't my thing--I was able to feed myself and start writing about what I was passionate about, Jewish creativity," she said.
She sent her first Jewish article on "Fashion Wars"--a piece on Urban Outfitters discontinuing the sale of a T-shirt that was seen as pro-Palestinian--to a contact at Haaretz.
"She published it on the front page the next day! Suddenly I went from being just a student, to being a published writer in Israel's oldest and most prestigious newspaper," said Ramer. "Getting my first article published was so empowering that I couldn't stop my hands from banging stories out on the keyboard."
The same week she wrote an article about a program that enables young Jews to visit Israel to strengthen their religious and cultural identities, "Does Birthright Deliver?" It also landed on page one of Haaretz. She has since sent a story pitch to a Jewish magazine, PresenTense, and will be featured in its next issue.
"If I could tell budding Mount Holyoke artists and writers anything, I would tell them that the most valuable thing that they can do is to get their work into the public sphere," Ramer said. "Just because you're a student doesn't mean you have to wait to join the published world.
"Today, with the Internet, you have so many more opportunities for networking and publishing," she added. "Just take advantage of them and send your work to publishers."