My Semester In The Middle East

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Kelli-JordanFour months ago, I embarked on an incredible adventure as I set out to study abroad in Amman, Jordan. For me, the Middle East was the natural choice for a study abroad destination. As an International Politics major in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, I am required to achieve proficiency in a language by the time I graduate. For better or worse, I chose Arabic. (I did four years of Spanish at Verona High School, including AP Spanish.) Studying in Jordan presented the opportunity for me to speak Arabic not only in the classroom, but to utilize my language skills on a daily basis…in taxis, restaurants, and with my host family. More than anything else, I was excited to immerse myself in a new culture and gain first-hand experience living in the Middle East.

I’d be lying if I said it was easy adjusting to life in Amman. However, as the weeks went by I became increasingly comfortable in my new surroundings. I argued with my taxi drivers in Arabic over the best route to school, gained a new appreciation of Arab food and music, confidently rolled my eyes at men who catcalled me on the street, and managed to sleep through the 5 a.m. call to prayer. I began to feel at home with my Jordanian host family and settled into my Sunday to Thursday class schedule.

In a region of intense conflict and political instability, Jordan is the eye of the storm. During my time abroad, the United States began its air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The security situation in Jerusalem also escalated after Muslims were barred from entering al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City. Despite my close proximity to these conflicts, I never once felt unsafe in Amman. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to hear perspectives on these events from individuals such as my international relations professor Dr. Omar Rifai, the former Ambassador of Jordan to Israel, as well as the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh.

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To name a few highlights of my semester…I rode a camel through the desert, explored the ancient city of Petra, floated in the Dead Sea, relaxed on the beautiful beaches of Cyprus, and visited Jerusalem, one of the holiest cities in the world. I’m coming away with a greater understanding of Arab culture and Islam, and my Arabic has improved leaps and bounds. On my flight home, I spoke to the Jordanian man next to me in Arabic for over an hour about my time in Jordan and my plans for the future.

It wasn’t an easy four months. It wasn’t always fun. But Amman has become a second home to me, and I’ll cherish the memories always. I have no doubt that, whether it’s for business or just to visit, I will find myself back in the Middle East.

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