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College sophomore Kos Mante is a staff photographer at The Daily Pennsylvanian. Over spring break, she traveled with 15 students to Israel and Jordan as part of their International Relations class on "Violent Non-State Actors." 

The trip was part of Penn's Global Seminars — a type of course that includes a travel component during the winter, spring, or summer break. It was led by International Relations professors Samuel Helfont and Tomoharu Nishino, and Penn Global trip coordinator Laurie Jensen.

From riding through the Jordanian desert in a pickup truck to taking a dip in the Dead Sea, Mante said the trip "will definitely stand as a highlight of [her] sophomore year." She shares her experience here:

Credit: Kos Mante Reviewing Middle eastern historical eras on the Mount of Olives

On our first full day, we toured the holy city of Jerusalem with our lovely guide Einav. We started at the Mount of the Olives and made our way through the city with stops in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Western Wall.

Credit: Kos Mante

Touring Jerusalem on our first full day in Israel.

 Einav quickly captured the attention of my classmates and me as she talked to us about her childhood on a traditional kibbutz and her compulsory service for the Israeli Defense Forces.

Credit: Kos Mante

College students Fiona Jensen-Hitch, Natasha Allen, and Elis Pill (left to right) taking advantage of the shade in Masada.

The next day, we journeyed to an ancient fortress, Masada, and swam in the Dead Sea. The unusually high salt concentration allowed us to float in the Dead Sea with ease. Relaxing in the sea was easy because it required no effort whatsoever.

Credit: Kos Mante

College senior Vicky Samara swimming in the Dead Sea.

That night, we stayed at Kibbutz Ketura, a socialist commune in the southern part of Israel. 

Walking around the Kibbutz was one of the most interesting parts of the trip because we were able to see how the traditional Zionist concept of a Kibbutz has changed over time to accommodate new technology and ideas. 

Credit: Kos Mante

Kibbutz Ketura.

After leaving Kibbutz Ketura, we crossed the border into Jordan and traveled to the Wadi Rum Desert.

Credit: Kos Mante Crossing the border from Israel to Jordan

In Jordan, we got to experience the Bedouin lifestyle by staying in a desert camp, riding camels, and eating traditional food. Driving to this lookout point in the back of pickup trucks through the desert was easily one of my favorite parts of the trip — it felt like we were riding a roller coaster without a seatbelt.

Credit: Kos Mante

College students Caitlin Muldowney (left) and Arianna Hill watching the sunset in the Wadi Rum desert.

Next, we stopped to tour the ruins of Petra and continued on to Jordan’s capital city, Amman. While in Amman, we had time on our own to explore the city before learning about the historical ruins of the city and current political situation.

Credit: Kos Mante

College students Cary Holley (left) and Natasha Allen outside the treasury in Petra.

While exploring the city on our own, many of us talked to locals about their perspectives on issues like the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the Gulf wars.

Credit: Kos Mante Making friends in Amman!

College freshman Damon Duchenne, College senior Vicky Samara, and I spoke with a Palestinian comic book artist named Ehab in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Ehab worked with the Spanish Embassy in 2017 to co-create a comic book about peace and diplomacy in the Middle East. We talked to him for well over an hour, and he gave Vicky and I henna tattoos before driving us back to our group (we were very late for dinner).

Credit: Kos Mante

View atop the Amman Amphitheater.

All too soon, it was time to head back to Philadelphia. For me, the best part of this trip was getting to learn in a unique environment with Penn students who I never would have met otherwise.

Kos Mante is a College sophomore from Villanova, Pa., studying international relations. She is a staff photographer at The Daily Pennsylvanian and can be reached at

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