I cannot believe I have gone this long without knowing what life was like in the Middle East. In a land weighed down with conflict and strife between peoples, the diverse cultures and location of the Middle East Studies Program (MESP) has allowed me to step out of my comfort zone of a traditional college classroom, and broaden my horizons. This is my first time leaving the United States, actually the first time I left the East Coast. 

When a fellow student at Eastern University, (located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) approached me with an opportunity to study abroad in the Middle East, I could not think of anything else I'd rather do. To walk where Jesus walked, to explore interesting new places, and to learn about the current state of Middle Eastern countries captured my imagination. I have not looked back since. We have traveled to places like Nazareth and Capernaum, floated in the Dead Sea, splashed around in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, and snorkeled in the Red Sea. We also lived with both Jewish and Arab families, exploring what life for people really looks like here. What is so remarkable about MESP are the endless opportunities to see, taste, smell, and live in a land of incredible history and culture, while building relationships with people from different lifestyles that can last a lifetime. 

This once-in-a-lifetime chance has been such a blessing to my life. The students in the program, the directors, and locals have made this trip one of the best experiences of my life. I feel when I return back home to the states, back to my family and friends, back to a normal college setting, my life will have changed completely for the better. I am bringing back skills and knowledge about a world different than American life; opening a door of communication to those who believe life in a different culture is too different to understand or accept. As a young adult, I hope to use these new advances as an encouragement for the future leaders of America, and mend bridges with people of this diverse land. MESP is a cultural experience you should refuse to be denied.

~ Alyssa Rowe

Eastern University, MESP Spring 2013