Studying in Jerusalem


Studying in Jerusalem has changed me in ways that I could have never imagined. While this experience has solidified my identity it has both softened and strengthened my values and thoughts on many issues and ideas.

I have a little bit of a unique perspective because while I am American, I am a Palestinian, Muslim girl living in Jerusalem. I relate to the religious ideas and I understand the cultural values here, yet three months later, I find myself questioning ideas I once firmly believed and strengthening my values I have always have. Read the rest of this entry

*USA Flag Emoji*


Being an American shouldn’t be that weird in the UK, right? That is, unless you’re one of the few Americans that your friends know at Sussex and rely on you to explain everything that happens with America to them.

This week, I was asked to reflect on how my community has supported my identity and how my identity has changed. In a previous post, I wrote a little bit about how my identity in Europe is different from when I’m in America. This time around, I’ll write a bit about how it’s changed while I’ve been here. Read the rest of this entry

Communities Support You

Going abroad was always a daunting task for me. I never saw myself as the type. I wasn’t adventitious enough or could see myself leaving the support system I had worked so hard to create at GW. There were a variety of exercises, ones I went through daily sophomore year in an attempt to stop myself from flying across the world. However, as I sit here in Turkey, enjoying the last bits of good weather at the beach with a group of friends from all walks of life, and having gone parasailing just this morning, I realize how lucky I am to have the people here with me.

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I have a very complex identity, being a Palestinian/Greek Muslim girl. I was always admired for my decision to convert to Islam and my non-Muslim friends always asked about my religion and attended religious events with me to learn more. My roommate even prayed with me once to show solidarity and to further understand my religion. The Islamic community back in America is generally supportive because they are aware of the challenges of being Muslim and America: Sticking to your beliefs but integrating into American society. This is something unique to American Muslims that Muslims in Arab countries judge and do not understand. Living in Jerusalem exposed me to the stereotypes I already knew about but it was nonetheless challenging.
The other part of my identity, a big one, is being Palestinian. I am very passionate about my beliefs and everyone around me is aware of that. I would often receive messages asking “What do you think of this article?” or “Your activism is admirable and I greatly respect you.” My work wasn’t hateful towards Israel and I lived and became close friends with a girl who shared opposite views than me, so traveling to Jerusalem didn’t suddenly push me to think “All Israelis are human.” Yet, it pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to step into a space where I began to see the situation differently because I lived it. Read the rest of this entry

My Support System Includes Binge-Watching Gossip Girl


For this blog post, we were asked list who or what makes up our community with visuals attached. Anyone or anything that helps us grow and support us can fall into this category. Typically, there’s a long list of people that make up a person’s support system, but there’s so much more to include. At first, I thought I might take a few pictures of people and explain how they help make up my community, but then I thought, why not really show what my support system consists of? First, I should explain why people aren’t the most integral part of my support system.

During sophomore year of high school, I found myself alone at a Baptist Army boarding school in Texas. As a gay Muslim teenager from Los Angeles, I was very clearly out of place. They didn’t let us have our phones during the day so contact with my friends back home was scarce (even scarcer with my family). I had to rely mostly on myself because my trust for the adults at my boarding school was very little after they bashed the LGBTQ community again and again—even at an anti-bullying assembly. Ever since then, I’ve had a support system that’s mostly devoid of humans. I will include friends as a collective category, including best friends, as they are still an integral part, but below is what consists of my support system. Read the rest of this entry

Beginning Life in Istanbul


Hola friends! I am now into my third week abroad in Istanbul which is both an amazing yet disorienting feeling. In a sense I feel like I have been here for much longer but when I Skype my friends back home I realize that my arrival was only moments ago. Leaving my community back home is obviously a difficult transition but I am so grateful for the community I am beginning to build here. I can already say it has brought much comfort to living everyday life in which most encounters often involve people being shocked I am American, asking “no really where are you from,” and leaving me frustrated that I sometimes live in a dual world of being American and Egyptian but in the eyes of some never fully being either. Below are some of my favorite things about my community:
The Bosphorus
The Bosphorus: Much like the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument, the Bosphorus has easily become one of my favorite places to spend my time when I am stressed or need something to leave me in awe of where I am at the moment.

The Mosques
The Mosques: As a muslim, my religion is extremely important to me. It is so beautiful to me to be able to hear the call to prayer five times a day and know that a mosque is only steps from where I am from.

Valerie and Ellie Read the rest of this entry

Community Abroad

Damascus Gate

The Damascus Gate is a center that holds the places of worship for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all in one area, just the way Jerusalem does. The ability for these three religions to coexist side by side is what defines Jerusalem.

East Jerusalem

Beit Hanina is Palestinian territory in what is called “East Jerusalem.” While people integrate in Jerusalem, there are many territories that remain very separated

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