August 5 marks the end of the 2015 Birthright Israel Excel Fellowship Program, a two-month internship program for American and Canadian college students that aims to build lasting relationships for the participants with Israel.The program is a branch of Taglit-Birthright, which sponsors free educational 10-day trips to Israel. The fellowship program – called Birthright Excel – is designed for sophomores, juniors and seniors in American and Canadian universities who want internships in the business and technology sectors. Due to its focus on the startup world, the participants are based in Tel Aviv. The program is free of charge and includes flights and meals.“The Birthright Excel program, currently in its fifth year, allows outstanding students from the United States and Canada the opportunity to intern with leading companies in Israel and gain a better look into Israel’s society,” said Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel.“Known for its innovative startup scene and entrepreneurial spirit, I believe that Israel is the ideal place for them to make their first steps in the business world,” he said.This year, the program had 44 students from 27 colleges and universities. One of these was Mindy Borovsky, a 20-year-old computer science major at Washington University in St. Louis, who interned this summer with the product management team at Checkpoint Software Technologies.Borovsky felt the internship was very beneficial to her professional and personal growth.“This summer has helped me explore hi-tech companies and given me exposure,” she said. “I’m really fortunate because it’s not only a big company in Israel, but also because it’s one of the global leaders in web security software. It’s been an amazing experience to work with a company of that caliber.”Josh Benediva, a 20-year-old student at the University of Chicago, spent his summer working as a summer analyst on the mergers and acquisitions team at Ernst Young Israel. He heard about the program through a member of his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and participated in it in order to gain professional experience.“My favorite thing [about my internship] was that I got to know what it is like to bank in Israel.I got the best professional experience because of the nature of the market in Israel, in terms of work experience,” he said.In addition to interning, the students also met Israeli leaders in various industries, took part in professional workshops, and toured locations all over the country. The students were also paired up with an Israeli of their age, which allowed them not only to enhance their resume, but also make a personal connection to Israel.“My peer is a student at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. We have many 30-minute discussions on policy and cultural differences between Israel and the United States,” said Benediva.“He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”The support and programming offered at the Birthright Excel program does not end in Israel, but continues long after the program ends. There is an extensive alumni network and regular gatherings, to provide networking opportunities and speakers. “It’s not only about the summer; this will continue on for the rest of our lives. There’s a strong alumni network to keeping business connections between American and Israel and hear more speakers,” said Brovosky. “This has been the best summer of my whole life,” she added.This year’s Birthright Israel Excel fellowship program concludes on August 5 at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Shai Babad, director-general of Israel’s Finance Ministry, Yoram Tietz, managing partner of Ernst & Young Israel and chairman of Birthright Israel Excel, David Gappell, director of the Schusterman Foundation-Israel, and Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, will all be in attendance.