By BOJANA GALIC In three short years, New York University junior Jenna Jardine, 20, has come a far way from her small-town in Grand Ledge, Michigan. Thinking back to her life at home, she explained that her freshman year of college was the first time she journeyed outside of North America. Now, “well-traveled” would be a fitting adjective for Jardine. After studying abroad in Paris her freshman year and spending the next two years in New York City, Jardine looks forward to experiencing her senior year at NYU’s campus in Tel Aviv.

Nevertheless, Jardine’s passion for travel and culture conflicts with her devotion to her family, particularly her eight-year-old half-brother, Lucas Hartman. Living far away from home is a struggle but she works to keep her familial bond as strong as ever.

Looking to the future, Jardine plans to use her acquired traveling skills to help her assimilate into the Israeli culture, while remaining close with her family. The transition into a brand-new setting will not be simple but she plans to use her positive and open-minded attitude as her strongest assets.

What was it like to go from Michigan to a completely new city, country, and continent for your freshman year?

“Studying abroad in Paris was my very first experience on my own. Since I have a big family that I’m very close to, it was incredibly hard to be away from them. It was a struggle. But I’m interested in travel, I love to learn from new places and people. This was my first step in independence and I realized it’s something I can do.”

How do you feel that your time in Paris prepared you for your future travels in Tel Aviv?

“Paris definitely prepared me to be far away from home both emotionally and logistically, as far as time-difference goes. As I learned in Paris, when you live in a new city or country, it gives you a different sense of self-awareness and the journalist in me is very excited. Studying in Paris helped me become an even more open-minded person; you have to adjust and learn from your surroundings. That will definitely help me next year.”

 The culture in Paris is still different from that in Tel Aviv, though. Is that something you’re concerned about?

“I have done quite a bit of research so I already know a fair bit about the culture. Nevertheless, I’m passionate about Palestinian rights so it does worry me that I will have to deal with the opposing view that many hold in Tel Aviv. At the same time, though, I like being around people with different views. You can learn a lot from people that don’t see things the same way that you do.”

Being someone who loves to travel, was it difficult to grow up in a small town?

“When I was young, I was raised within a pretty conservative community. Growing up, I realized that I was drawn to different people, which is difficult when many of the people around you are the same. It was incredibly difficult for me, but if I could, I wouldn’t have changed the way that I grew up. It made me who I am today.”

Since your community was conservative, would you say that your family helped you become the open-minded person you are?

“In a way, it was definitely my family. My parents divorced when I was six years old and I traveled back and forth between parents with my sister, Jessica, who is 11 months older than me. The two of us had to grow up very quickly and we had to become more independent at a young age. I’d also say that my mother was a strong influence in my life. She did everything on her own and it was a great inspiration.”

How do you balance the conflict between your love of travel and your devotion to your family?

“It’s not easy and it is especially hard to be away from my little brother Lucas. I love being an older sibling to him and we are actually very similar people. Since both my older sister and I are in school at the moment, he’s basically an only child. So, whenever I can, I talk to him. I come home during school breaks to spend time with him and the rest of my family. It’s a struggle but we make it work so that I can experience all of the things I love, my family and my passion for visiting and learning about new places.”