"One Month In..." by Ciara Tenney
As I come to a point a little more than one month into the semester, it feels appropriate to address how my experience has been studying abroad in Amman, Jordan so far. In keeping with any typical semester, there have been ups and downs during my time here, but overall it has been a fantastic experience.
When I arrived in Jordan approximately one month ago, I was anxious and I was not sure what to expect from the program. The transition into life in Amman was made much easier by the week-long orientation session AMIDEAST provides including Survival Arabic, introduction to Jordanian culture, and a fun scavenger hunt in an assigned neighborhood.
One of my biggest fears before coming here was that I would struggle to communicate because I had taken four semesters of Modern Standard Arabic, but absolutely zero spoken Arabic. While it is a challenge to speak in Arabic here, I have found that with a little bit of Survival Arabic one can get around just fine — English is more widespread than one might think. However, if you are relying on taxis for transportation rather than Uber, get ready to use your Survival Arabic!
While Arabic will remain a challenge for the rest of my time here (and, admittedly, the rest of my life) the students that I am studying with here are fantastic. We have a hilarious group Snapchat, different adventures every weekend (and on the weeknights, too), and a fantastic group dynamic. All of the students here have different backgrounds and life experiences that make getting to know them a pleasure. And as a bonus, a lot of us watch Games of Thrones and you can bet that we are going to find a way to watch season 8 when it begins this April!
While I found that living in Amman is not as different or scary as I thought it would be, there are still challenges. The academics here are demanding — the professors expect a lot from the students and set the bar high. However, this is fantastic; my Arabic will be markedly improved by the end of the semester. Additionally, I am getting a real analysis of my skill set in Arabic from a different professor than the one I have had for four classes at home and this is absolutely invaluable.
Even though the classes are challenging, they are not impossible to balance with doing activities and going out. Content courses such as Political Islam meet once a week and the amount of reading required is very manageable, especially if it is broken up over several days. The homework for actual Arabic classes is not over the top and is effective for practicing new grammar concepts and testing your knowledge, not just “busy work”.
During my time here I chose to live with a host family because I am ultimately here to improve my Arabic. Through my own experience and discussions with other students, I have learned that each host family is different and provide varying cultural insights. My family tends to let my roommate and I do our own thing while other families are more actively involved in the life of their host students. In the end, the most important thing is communication. Most difficulties can be solved if you are willing to remain patient and talk to your host family or AMIDEAST staff who can communicate with the family on your behalf. The language barrier can be an issue but that is why we are here: to learn how to communicate.
All in all, Jordan is a new country with a culture quite different from the United States and it is absolutely beautiful. From the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash to the citadel in Amman there are endless things to do and see here — many of which AMIDEAST has organized excursions set up to do. Studying abroad is something that anyone can do, as long as they are willing to take the risk and reap the rewards that are on the other side.