Achieving her goal of becoming an "internationally aware" Arcadia student
“I was considered a ‘Level 6 terrorist,’” International Studies major Jessica Sillaman '14 laughs, recalling her security experience flying out of Israel, “because I had been in the West Bank for two and a half months; little 4’11” Jessica.”
For Jessica, the summer internship with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization in Nablus, Palestine, marked the defining moment of her undergraduate experience. Applying on the recommendation of Dr. Samer Abboud, Jessica left straight from her spring 2013 semester in Istanbul, Turkey, to spend her summer teaching English to Palestinian refugee students.
“It was the most life-changing, academically challenging, personally challenging, and yet most rewarding experience that I have had,” she said.
During her time in Palestine, she observed and took part in Palestinian culture and the day-to-day life. For Jessica, the most impactful assignment she did with her students was asking them to write down what it meant for them to be Palestinian. Though the assignment was designed to discuss culture and traditions, many students chose to write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“So many of these kids are brought up with the idea that being Palestinian is bad and that they have always done something wrong, “ Jessica explains. “But they are just kids and innocent at heart.”
Before going to Palestine, Jessica had admired the involved, internationally aware students she encountered at Arcadia University during her college application process. “I just wanted to be them,” Jessica recalls.
She has spent her time at Arcadia living up to that example by participating in the Honors Program, studying abroad with FYSAE London and in Istanbul, and representing the University to prospective students with the Arcadia Ambassadors.
Her internship experience in Palestine served as the final element making Jessica feel that she had achieved her goal. Upon returning to campus in the fall of her senior year, Jessica sat down with Dr. Abboud to discuss her internship experience, and, for the first time, found found herself doing more talking than listening: “I used to be kind of intimidated by our professors and their wide academic and travel experiences, and I finally feel like I am part of that with them.”