Study Abroad: Jordan
For five months I lived and studied in Amman, Jordan. I focused my studies on the Arabic language and politics of the Middle East. I was offered many cultural opportunities and travel excursions through CIEE. Such excursions included traveling to places like Wadi Rum, Aqaba, Petra, Madaba and others. I also traveled to the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Bahrain and Qatar. During my time in the Middle East, I focused my personal goals toward learning about the Jordanian culture and breaking down provincial stereotypes that are pervasive throughout western society. This was arguably hardest thing for me to learn. I was also fortunate enough to attend school every day on a college campus, not too different from Ohio State and interact with young Jordanians in an everyday setting.
There are many things I learned while in Jordan that are beyond the traditional scope of education. I focused my studies on the Arabic language, both modern standard Arabic and colloquial Jordanian Arabic. In total, I was in an Arabic language classroom for fifteen hours a week. Additionally, I learned the language through constant interaction at the university and with shop owners throughout the city. This immersion helped me advance my language skills like I could have never imagined. I also took other classes on the politics of development in the Middle East and the long history the United States has had with Arab countries. Learning about key political and cultural issues through a different lens was extremely gratifying and eye opening. I gained a new perspective on almost every idea I had before living in Jordan. Especially for Americans, sometimes it can be difficult to understand the point of view of other nationalities and countries. One must let go of all pre-conceived notions she had and allow herself to be influenced by a totally new perspective. This gained perspective is something I am very proud of and hope to share with my family and friends.
Personally, I experienced a lot of growth as a student, as a language and art lover and as a citizen of the world. Some of the most influential things to me were simple conversations at school with some of the other Jordanian students. One can learn so much about another person and his or her ideas by simply listening. I learned about so many historical events through the eyes of the Jordanians, instead of through an American textbook.
In addition to classroom learning, I learned a lot from my travels. One of my favorite places to visit was Israel. While in Israel I stayed in Tel Aviv and then in the Old City. This experience was truly amazing on a historical, cultural and spiritual level. One of the things I love about the region I lived in is that everywhere you go is dripping with a rich history all its own. In every country, there is so much to learn about the people and the struggles they have experienced. In Jerusalem, for example, one of the most diverse places in the world, every group of people has their own unique narrative, although they live less than a mile away from each other. Learning these things directly from the people is an invaluable experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Moreover, in embracing the Jordanian culture, I learned that the two cultures, Middle East and West, don’t always have to be in conflict with each other. I learned there are things I am comfortable doing the Jordanian way instead of the American way. This is another beautiful idea that I am fortunate to have picked up during my time abroad.
I am also indebted to Jordan for showing me love. I fell in love in Jordan in more ways than one. I met a really great guy who taught me a lot about what it means to be Arab and how the relationship between Arabs and Americans is not always properly represented. Besides experiencing love in this way, I experienced love in many other ways. I fell in love with the country itself and with the stories I would hear. I fell in love with the culture and the history and traditions. More than that, I fell in love with the journey. Everyday I was able to meet new people and learn about their stories and their perspectives and realize that their opinions, which seemed foreign and strange at first, were just as valid as mine. Discovering the world is a passion that burns deeply within my soul and I owe it in large part to my time spent in Jordan.
Moving forward, I have many new life goals following my time spent in Jordan. In many ways, living in Jordan cemented my aspirations of studying Arabic and specializing in the Middle East as a region for my career. But living abroad taught me many new things as well. I now know I would not be opposed to living in Jordan again in the future, or elsewhere in the Middle East, for a few years. I definitely loved the journey and desire to travel as much of the world as possible. Eastern Europe and East Asia are next on my list