I’ve been in Amman for over two months now. Approaching the halfway point has been an incredible (albeit sometimes exhausting) experience of culture shock, adjustment, and adventure. My trips outside Amman have allowed me to have a more immersive and diverse study abroad experience. In the next two posts, I’ll be writing about my long weekend in Jerusalem, and about my fall break in Istanbul.

Getting to Jerusalem wasn’t easy, but it’s certainly easier for me than many others. We had to take an Uber to the border, wait in an office with no AC, and then take two more buses through checkpoints. Once we entered Israel, I passed through the checkpoint with ease. However, some of the boys in the group I came with got interrogated. After that rough start, we had a problem finding our airbnb, carrying our weekend bags down the famous metropolitan Jaffa street. But tired as we were, after we found the airbnb we were back out out exploring the street in minutes. It was the first time any of us had left Jordan since we arrived, and so seeing the busy western-style street felt like a brand new experience after getting used to the culture of Amman. I actually felt more culture shock between Amman and Jerusalem than I did between the U.S. and Amman. I couldn’t read the signs on the buildings or speak a word of Hebrew. The city is diverse, but we spent most of our time in Jerusalem exploring the “Old City”, home to famous religious sites and architecture. Within the walls of the Old City, there is a huge maze of markets, with absolutely everything you can imagine. There is an Muslim, Christian, and Jewish section. Then, if you pass the wailing wall, you arrive at the Al-Aqsa mosque. I’ve wanted to visit this spot in Jerusalem, so important to all three monotheistic religions, for as long as I can remember. We explored the old city for two days, and on the last day we walked the ramparts and could see all of Jerusalem, as well as East Jerusalem on the Palestinian side. Unfortunately, I had to sit out a day due to feeling sick. Jerusalem is extremely expensive, and although all we spent money on was food, we all ended up spending far more than anticipated. The final mistake we made was planning our visit around the Jewish holiday of Shabbat, when virtually everything, from banks to pharmacies, was closed. However, despite this hiccups, and the general stress of travel and staying in small spaces and foreign countries, it was an overall amazing experience. I understand how lucky I am to have these kind of experiences. I definitely want to travel back to Jerusalem and experience more of the city.

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