Name: Paris
Major: Political Science
Program: CIEE
Where: Amman, Jordan
When: Fall 2007

Favorite Course: Arabic

Highlights: A traditional belly dance performed by a Bedouin man in Wadi Rum(desert)

Best Excursion: Overnight trips to Petra and Wadi Rum

Favorite Dish: Maqluba- a mixture of rice, potatoes, chicken, almonds and peas

Least Favorite Dish: Mansif- national Jordanian dish

Next Destination: ……….still trying to decide!!!!!


Describe your most memorable experience while abroad.

My most memorable experience while studying in Jordan was the weekend trip to Petra and Wadi Rum. We left the University mid-Friday and traveled by bus to Wadi Rum, which is in the south of the country. Once we arrived at our location, we rode in the back of 4x4 trucks across the desert, stopping at several locations and looking at drawings that were painted onto the rocks over 3 thousand years ago. We also stopped just before sunset for lunch, and it was incredible to watch the sunset while sitting 50ft above the ground. Both nights we slept in the desert within Bedouin camps, where we got the chance to watch a traditional belly-dance and to dance a traditional Jordanian dance around the fire. In the morning at our first camp, we were greeted by a buffet breakfast with fresh and steaming hot bread that was cooked by a Bedouin woman. It was very delicious. The rest of the day was spent traveling by camel (which I did NOT ride, I tried but it scared me) through Wadi Rum towards the Wadi Rum cultural center. Once there and after lunch, we traveled by bus to Little Petra, which sits outside of the city of Petra. Once arriving at the gates of Petra, we walked for about an hour until we came upon the infamous scene of the Siq. It was beautiful. Before lunch, a group of us traveled 726 ft up the side of a mountain to see the Monastery and the spectacular view of the whole of Petra. It was an amazing experience!

How has the experience changed you?

Traveling abroad, especially to the Middle East, has changed me in various ways, all being positive. This was my first time traveling outside of the country and I was filled with anxiety and curiosity. I couldn’t believe that I would be living and experiencing Arab culture through my own senses. Since leaving the Middle East, I have been bitten by the travel bug and have become increasingly interested in any opportunity, depending on cost, that will allow me to travel abroad again. I personally feel like, if you can handle the Middle East, you can take on any place. I’ve also become interested and appreciative of the social and political structures that shape other countries. For example, Jordan is a westernized country in many aspects, but the separation of men and women is part of tradition that shocked me when I first arrived. Now, in a weird way that most wouldn’t understand, I feel this tradition empowers women to become independent of men (who are not within the family, i.e brother, father) and take control of their education, pushing the envelope to have careers while holding onto the traditions of being a wife and mother.

Lastly, living in the Middle East, you quickly learn that some things just don’t get accomplished and for the reason that I learned the value of patience. When finding a taxi that won’t drive all around your neighborhood before dropping you off, finding a cup of inexpensive American coffee with milk, or trying not to get haggled while shopping for gifts to bring home, patience is a pill well-needed to handle what can become stressful situations. Living in Jordan was stressful, very stressful at times, but being there has opened my eyes to all of the exciting and life-changing adventures the world has to offer.

How was the experience of studying the language in the classroom (in high school or in college) prior to studying abroad different from the experience of studying the language in and outside of the classroom once you were abroad?

Before leaving for Jordan, I studied Arabic for 2 semesters with a huge text book, going home everyday to do sentences and practice my writing. Of course I had CDs to practice vocabulary or speaking, but talking to myself was not helping me learn the language at all. I would use flash cards and by the end of the 2nd semester, I had over 400, all color coded by chapter, gender and plural. I understood and could translate the words from Arabic to English within seconds, but writing a paragraph about myself or reading a paragraph and understanding every word proved to be difficult. Once I went to Jordan, I realized how much Arabic I really didn’t know. 

Inside the classroom, it was roughly the same number of students as in the States but the atmosphere and structure of the class was completely different. We were introduced to 3 different teachers for our 16 hour a week class sessions; Dr Basma for listening, Dr Naja for speaking and Ghadeer for reading. Five days a week we went to class and learned the old fashioned way: all the material grouped together. As we learned new vocabulary, we also would learn the plural, the adjective form and its opposite. This way of learning proved to be more effective than in the States because instead of dividing the plurals, for example, from the singular when we first learned them, over there, we learned everything at the same time. Within the first month of classes, we had to write paragraphs about anything that we wanted and the following day we would have to read them in front of the class. This also was effective because we would learn other words that we wanted to learn in order to write “our” stories. I would encourage anyone who is studying a language to look for opportunities to study abroad. You can learn a year’s worth of material within a semester but also have the experience of living the language.