Stacy Lee of Wellesley College is spending her junior year in Israel. She debated picking a school in Jerusalem or one in Cairo before choosing Rothberg International School-The Hebrew University of Jerusalem for its curriculum, which includes the study of modern conflicts. For more about Stacy's experiences, check out her blog at stacyabroad.blogspot.com.
CHOOSING JERUSALEM: I was interested in studying in Jerusalem because as the sacred nexus of the world's three biggest religions, it has a rich history within the city's organic connections to the land, which I felt must be experienced in person to fully understand.
LIFE ON RED ALERT: This isn't to generalize and say the Israelis are an unwelcoming people, I just feel that often times security measures cross the line between precaution and disrespect. While Jerusalem is often portrayed in the media as a volatile place, I would not say that it is any harder or more daunting than any other city. It's important to always be cautious and be aware of walking into orthodox areas wearing inappropriate clothing.
SHOCKING ORANGE PASTRY: Here there is Israeli food, Palestinian food, Levantine cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine, and international cuisine. In the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, I tried something I'd never tried before called knafeh, which is a shocking orange pastry made with thin vermicelli, Nabulsi cheese, and topped with a hot sticky syrup.
IMMERSION, SORT OF: Although I am continuing Hebrew classes, it is still difficult for me to make phone calls, because more often than not the other person on the phone can only speak Hebrew. However, it's also a similar experience to the one I have at home, where my parents will speak to me in Korean and I will respond in English.
MATURITY FACTOR: School is different here in that most Israelis go to the army out of high school and many begin college in their early 20s. As a result, students are more mature and independent, and one needs to take more initiative.
SILENCE, PLEASE: My biggest faux pas was at my first Shabbat [Sabbath] lunch, when I started asking other lunch guests questions about themselves in the moment of silence before the prayers and the breaking of the bread.
HIP HOP 101: My internship here includes research with a Palestinian hip-hop group called G-Town. I've been reintroduced to the amazing networking powers of myspace.com as a resource for finding new local and global artists.
WISH THEY WERE HERE: If my parents visited, I would take them to the Old City to visit all the quarters (Muslim, Jewish, Armenian, and Christian). But I would most want them to see the amazing view of Jerusalem from the top of Har Hatsofim, above the clamor of the city.