Studying abroad has provided me an amazing immersion into different cultures, people, languages, foods and so much more. Not only have I had the wonderful opportunity to study and learn the ways of the Israeli people, but I have had the chance to visit so many other places that I probably never would have had the chance to see otherwise.
Recently — not too long after being diagnosed with pneumonia, and with the condition still lingering for some unknown reason — I was invited to take a boat cruise to Akko, Israel (also known as Acre). The boat ride was lovely. It was more like taking a relaxing cruise ship into the unknown and coming upon an historic walled city rising from the sea.
“Who would have ever thought these places really existed outside of the Hollywood depictions of them”
I was able to share this wonderful trip with two fellow lady friends that I had the sweetest chance to meet while studying at the University of Haifa in Israel. I needed this trip more than they could have ever known. I had not only just been released from the hospital with pneumonia I’d been fighting for several months, I’d been dealing with another nuisance upon my return to campus. Immediately after receiving the invitation, I decided to take a negative and turn it into a positive, so I accepted.
What can I say about the experience of visiting this city? WOW!
I mean, how many surprises of beautiful, historic wonder can one person handle in a short period of time? I felt like I had been transported back to the time of the Phoenicians! Akko is an old town of the Baha’i Faith. It is known for its two major heritage sites, The Old City of Acre and the Baha’i Garden of Acre. There are many cultures that have inhabited the area: Canaanites, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, the Crusaders and the Arabs. Each one left a mark on the city.
There was so much for us to see, foods to taste and things to buy. We all know that a woman’s favorite pastime when stressed and sick is to shop and eat. So shopping and eating is what we did!
My friends, after hearing that we could climb to the wall overlooking the beautiful blue sea and the whole of the city, made it their life goal to drag me to the highest point to do just that. What an incredible view! The town of Akko is surrounded by what are called “surviving walls.” We walked along until we came to the Burj el-Kummander tower (AKA, the “Accursed Tower) where Richard the Lionheart took down the Duke of Austria’s flag in 1191.
We actually stood where Lionheart once was! I loved it. It made me think of my favorite old movies portraying Robin Hood and Sir Richard the Lionheart. Who would have ever thought these places really existed outside of the Hollywood depictions of them?
There were many other places we explored, such as the Burg Kurajim (Tower of the Vine), which was built to help defend the town against attacks from the sea. As you all know by now, my favorite thing to say is, “It was amazing!”
I’m so thankful to the two young women who invited me to go along on this excursion. It allowed me to free my mind, enjoy myself and rediscover why I chose to come to Israel in the first place. I have since tried to collect all the recipes of the local area to bring back home to share with my family and friends.
What a wonderful opportunity it is that my university makes such experiences accessible and available for all to enjoy. I remember years ago during my first time in college (I will not tell how old I am, but let me give a timeframe: It was the early to mid 90s) this was not something that schools just offered. It took loads of money for someone to be able to experience what I have experienced in just one academic year.
I have to give a great big shout out to San Diego State University and its study abroad office for providing generous opportunities through grants, sponsorship and scholarships. Thank you! For all the students who have not yet gone abroad, I say it is never too late. Take advantage of this opportunity while you can.
Maybe you can experience a trip like I did, to Akko, Israel!
Elizabeth Jones is a transfer student majoring in criminal justice and international security and conflict resolution (ISCOR). She is studying at University of Haifa in Israel for an entire academic year.
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