Earlier this week, I gave in to impulse, and started "seriously pondering" making aliyah. A good friend of mine asked me what "seriously pondering" meant...did it mean just fantasizing about it, as so many on this side of the big blue(ish) ocean so often do, or did it mean actually beginning to plan?
I think of it as something in the middle, closer to the planning end. "Seriously pondering" means, for me, to go a few steps past just idly dreaming, and to start taking a cold, hard look at the steps involved, and then determining how close I am to being able to make those steps.
Talk about a reality check. Cold water in the face. Insert cliche here.
I actually didn't get much farther than the Nefesh B'Nefesh website, to which I am no stranger. I don't know why it hit me so much harder this time around, but I realized that, financially, it's just not going to be possible to make aliyah after I graduate. And yes, I realize that making aliyah is rarely a financially practical move. I'm not talking about practical, I'm talking about possible.
NBN offers suggestions for what the first 6 months in Israel would cost, as an olah hadasha...and it would take everything that higher education hasn't already taken. After 6 months, I'd be broke. And that's if I were able to ship every appliance, article of clothing, and home furnishings that I would need. It leaves no wiggle room.
Wait, there was something else...oh, yeah! Student loans! I still have student loans!
Honestly, this is depressing. While I wasn't really pinning my hopes on being able to make aliyah next summer, it's hard to let go of that remote possibility. But really, I just won't be able to do it. I would really just be setting the stage for an eventual return to the States.
So, for all my friends out there who love to ask when I'm making my move (*cough* Trep *cough*), it looks like I'll be a tourist for at least a couple more years. I need to fill my piggy bank and shoo away some of those loans before we can be neighbors.
On the plus side, I did find some surprisingly encouraging info about my professional prospects in Israel. While finding a job will most likely be difficult, and I'll have to take a lower status job, and my field isn't highly paid in any country, my work experience in the States may actually help me negotiate a higher salary. Turns out that social workers in Israel are 'graded' from alef to yud alef (alef is the highest) based on experience. (I don't know if this is equally true for other professions). So, essentially, being forced to work a few years in the States with my shiny-new MSW may actually, ultimately, be helpful once I really can make aliyah.
This may be the silver lining, or I may just be fooling myself. Either way, I'll take it.