7 Reasons To Go To Jerusalem

7 Reasons To Go To Jerusalem

You won't find a place like this anywhere else in the world.

I've lived in three major cities now: Los Angeles, Singapore, and Jerusalem. Every city has it's own amazing qualities!

This past semester in Jerusalem has been nothing short of incredible. Here's what I'll truly miss:

1. The Old-City Shopkeepers That Treat You Like Family

Of course, there are the shopkeepers that try to charge you more than you should (or sweet talk you into buying things you don't really need), but of the handful, there were a select few that I came to love and trust. Every time I stopped in their shops in the Old City, they would offer me my favorite "chai with mint" and share with me stories of their past adventures. Their shops always felt inviting and cozy - you are always welcomed to stay as long as you want!

2. Flexible Teachers

The Middle Eastern professors I had all were top-notch academics; however, they seemed to all care more about their students' practical application and active engagement in the subject rather than the rote memorization of it. I loved the balance between the academic rigor and the flexibility/spontaneity of their teaching and grading style. I'm not sure if this is applicable to the Middle Eastern education system in general, but this is just what I encountered in my experience. I felt like I learned more and really retained all of what I was taught in class because I actually enjoyed learning.

3. History is Everywhere

When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. We had an active archaeological dig in our university's backyard. I lived approximately 2 minutes away from the Old City Wall which has parts of it dating back as early as 3,000 years ago. There are ancient tunnels in the city that go back to 4,000 years ago. The City is almost like living in a museum except you don't just get to see history from behind glass casing - you get to tangibly interact with all parts of it.

4. Good food, good juice, good coffee (10 shekels - $3.80 - and under)

If you know where to go, you can get some of the best and freshest street food for great prices. My favorite meal was falafel (pictured below) that cost only 8 shekels from Damascus Gate paired with my favorite drink of freshly squeezed pomegranate that cost only 10 shekels from the Christian Quarter of the City.

5. The Bustling City Rests from Friday Sundown to Saturday Sundown

The Jewish people observe Shabbat, meaning they rest from all work for one day out of the week. While this means most shops are closed, the fact that the whole city stops to take a break each week is really countercultural and very refreshing to take part in. You learn that rest is important and should be made a priority.


Whether it's Hebrew, English, or Arabic you are hearing on the street, or seeing tourists from all over the world congregate in the Old City, diversity is unavoidable. You suddenly become aware of a wide variety of cultural customs and lifestyles that are unique, having been passed down dozens of generations.

7. It's Not All Desert and Sand Folks!

Contrary to what many assume - Jerusalem is not a historic city in the middle of the desert where everything is sandy and ancient. On the contrary, Jerusalem, for the most part, is a modern city with an incredible railway and bus system, lively night markets, and cosmopolitan shopping malls. There are a ton of chic cafes, coffee shops, museums, and galleries to peruse too! The city is beautiful, clean, and well-maintained (with plenty of green foliage!)

To learn more about the semester abroad program in Jerusalem I took part in, visit here: https://www.juc.edu

Cover Image Credit: Jasmine Kolano

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To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."

It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

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A Letter To My Friends When I'm Abroad

To some of the most important people in my life


Dear Friends,

I'm sure you know that studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for me. The ability to immerse myself in a different country with different people, culture, and lifestyle will enable me to grow tremendously. And while you know how exciting this can be, it also causes me to feel a lot of confusing emotions. Don't get me wrong, I am ecstatic to study abroad next semester, but as my departure date gets closer and closer, the reality of leaving also sets in. It is starting to hit me that I will be gone for an entire semester. It means that I won't be there for every wonderful thing you will experience in the fall, from movie nights to lunch dates to nights out.

In the next couple of weeks, I will have to exchange some goodbyes "see you later"s with you. And before the summer is over, I will be living in a new place for three and a half months...5,800 miles away. A part of me wonders how I will be able to handle the time and distance apart from you since you are some of the most important people in my life right now. Realistically, it may be difficult to communicate sometimes, but I hope this does not affect anything. I still want to hear about all your crazy stories, including funny stories from class, interesting questions you were asked on a tour, and whatever interesting events are happening on campus. Make sure to keep me in the loop. I hope you never forget that I am always a text away, and I expect to have some quality FaceTime sessions with you, no matter wherever you are in the world.

Although I know you are also upset to not see me for an entire semester, you are constantly supporting me. Just so you know, that support means the absolute world to me. Even though I may feel sad to leave Villanova for a semester, you keep me grounded, reminding me that studying abroad will be an amazing experience. You encourage me to live my best life abroad, and I know you will always be rooting for me despite the oceans that separate us. Just as I will be cheering for you nearly 6,000 miles away, ensuring that you too are living your best life.

Thank you for always believing in me.

With love,


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