As cliché as it sounds, studying abroad has been a dream of mine since the day I enrolled into college. Having never travelled outside the States, I rightfully yearned to explore far beyond their borders. To put things into perspective, I was born and raised in New Jersey, the same state where I attended school, shy of a 15 minute commute from my home. Indubitably, over the span of my academic career, I seemingly developed an intense desire to experience an academic environment both out-of-country, and out of comfort zone.
Just a few months into my junior year, I decided to turn my dream of studying abroad into a reality. One year, and one International Studies Abroad acceptance letter later, I find myself sitting inside of my student apartment in Amman, Jordan writing this very post.
At this point you may be wondering, why Amman, Jordan? Why didn’t I opt for a more ravishing European scene, where the sandy coasts of Barcelona, or the picturesque Isles of Greece would surely attract any first time abroad student? Albeit alluring, I based my choice upon a passion for Arabic language, culture, and an academic pursuit within degrees of Political Science and Middle-Eastern studies. Studying abroad in Jordan would make it possible to learn Arabic in an adequate setting, all while embracing authentic Middle-Eastern culture to the fullest. Besides, if I ever wanted to branch out of my comfort zone, studying in the capital city of Amman seemed like a good start.
I arrived a day earlier than expected (my original flight was actually cancelled & re-booked due to a pilot strike), and I was subsequently faced with the daunting task of making housing arrangements for the night. Equipped with a rusty Arabic vocabulary and an eager mindset, I stepped out of the airport with an intent to engage in conversation amid surrounding locals. Among the first things I took notice of upon exiting the airport was the geography. The barren landscapes were met with a sense of tranquility and calmness. Surprisingly enough, the weather allowed for a dry, yet comfortable atmosphere. Despite soaring temperatures, the air lacked a sense of humidity, and surely enough trumped any summer day in New Jersey.
Nevertheless, my first real experience of Jordan was during a tour of downtown Amman, referred to as “Al Bilad”, or the old country. Upon a tour of the city, I instantaneously fell in love with its cultural affluence. Between breathtaking mountainsides and photographic horizons, my eyes drifted into an astonished daze. One of the stops along the tour was a renowned restaurant known as ‘The Hashem Restaurant’. We ordered a round of hummus and falafel, which was undoubtedly the best of its kind. Stomachs full, we successfully ended our day with our first taxi ride back to the apartments.
My newfound love for Amman was not solely influenced by its cultured downtown region, but rather solidified through an excursion made to the ancient Roman Citadel in a district known as “Jabal al-Qal’a”, or the The Castle Mountain. This historical site remarkably distinguishes itself from the booming metropolitan area just a few hundred feet below it. Standing tall are the archaic Temple of Hercules, and the Umayyad Palace; both of which illustrate previous occupations by the Assyrians and Persians, whose influence still linger across the scene even thousands of years later.
My time spent in Jordan falls short of one week, and I can assure you it’s been the most culturally shocking, frenetic, and rewarding weeks in my entire life. In the short week that I have been here, I have experienced a variety of cultural differences, environmental adaptations, social adjustments, and academic challenges. Simple things that are taken for granted in the States seem to be absent across Jordanian norms, including long hot showers (Jordan lacks an abundance of water resources), or being able to wear a pair of shorts in public without being deemed as unprofessional. Despite facing a variety of personal challenges, the experiences I face while in Jordan will allow me to grow both as a student, and as an individual. As difficult as they may be, I personally promise to approach each situation with diligence, and utilize every experience (including the tough and ugly ones) as a tool to learn and grow.
And even though I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my experience, my time here in Amman, Jordan thus far has been unforgettable. If things continue going the way they have been, I may not get a chance to feel homesick!