Category Archives: Sofia in Jordan

Finding Balance

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” 

-Cesare Pavese

Study abroad is strange in the sense that you immediately begin to build a temporary life with people you have met just days before. This temporary life, I have found, does not necessarily coincide with the life I live back home. As a matter of fact, the life I live now is completely different from life as I knew it. Because of this, I am constantly in a state of inconsistency. I am so used to the comfort of conforming with a rigid daily schedule: wake up, go to the gym, go to class, eat, do my homework, go to sleep. Now, everyday is a new adventure. What part of the city will I explore today? Which country will I travel to tomorrow? What people will I meet? What sights will I see? The best outcome to all of these questions never requires a rigid plan or structure. All of these adventures, relations, and experiences form spontaneously.

The days began to pass right by me starting from the Golden Triangle Trip where we traveled to Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba.

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We hiked through one of the world wonders, rode camels through the same desert that Aladdin is currently being filmed in, and snorkeled in the Red Sea. The weekend after, my fourth weekend here, I was already traveling to Beirut, Lebanon, with my established friend group – people who I had just become close with a week or two before. 

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Traveling to Beirut felt like I was traveling outside of the Middle East. The heavily French-influenced city was very lively and filled with way too much to see and do than our three day trip allotted.

The beginning of October was when the off-balance really took a toll. I became anxious with time and my inability to time-manage without being on a rigid schedule; inevitably overtaking my emotions. How am I nineteen years old, living 6,000 miles away from my parents trying to manage school, an internship, social events, and marathon training, along with doing groceries, cleaning, and spending hours a day commuting? I grew frustrated over simple things like not being able to find liquid chicken broth in the grocery store, or not being able to have a normal monthly phone plan like I do in the U.S.

I accepted the fact that it takes patience to live this new “off-balanced” life I am now living. My days here will never be the same and that is privilege in itself. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to travel and to grow outside of my comfort zone, while most people never get to move outside of the small town they were born and raised in. Every day I am faced with a new challenge, and every challenge I overcome is a testament to my long journey of growth. There are many moments in life that are breathtaking. A recent breathtaking moment of mine was seeing my second world wonder, the pyramids of Giza.

 

My entire trip throughout Egypt in Cairo, Luxor, and Hurghada was filled with spontaneous adventure and breathtaking sights and experiences. But all of these breathtaking moments and experiences are opportunities to self-reflect and to simply take a breath. It is not easy to start a whole new life abroad at nineteen years old. I want to do and experience everything, I want to learn and excel in all of my classes, and I want to remind myself to take time for myself. The greatest lessons I will learn are derived from the thoughts I collect when I, just for a moment, find the perfect weight to balance my life and take a long, deep breathe.

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A New Beginning and A New Lifestyle

Marhaba! My name is Sofia Sinnokrot and I am a second year student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For the 2018-2019 academic year I will be studying abroad in Amman, Jordan. Being half Palestinian and visiting the Middle East several times in my life, I do not share the culture shock that many of my fellow peers have experienced from the moment they saw the McDonald’s sign written in Arabic.

McDonalds

However, visiting the Middle East and living in the Middle East are two completely different situations; the latter in which I was not prepared for. In the United States, we take for granted many aspects of our daily lives that are additional privileges in other parts of the world. For example, Jordan is one of the poorest water countries in the world. That being said, my apartment is only given a measurable tank of water for the month. Once that water runs out, we have to wait until the next refillment period or pay a large amount of money to get a new tank before. We are not able to drink the tap water from our kitchen sink, and have to pay for additional water jugs once we run out of drinking water. It is emphasised that laundry should only be done on the first day that our water is refilled since a load of laundry requires a significant amount of water. Water alone is a major change for me to adjust to while I am here. Being a runner, I consume at least 3 liters of water a day. Not having access to water fountains in buildings is something that is actively on my conscious and an adjustment I have had to account for in my daily routine. Coming from Chicago, unlimited drinkable running water was a norm for me that I took for granted. The same goes for electricity. Electricity in Amman is very expensive, and drying machines are rare household items. Instead of having my laundry done in a few hours, I have to hang my clothes up outside and wait two days for them to dry.

porch

Life in Amman is very different compared to life in the United States. Most of the food in the supermarkets are imported from nearby countries. Thus, grocery shopping can become very expensive. Vegetables that are imported are sprayed with an extreme amount of pesticides and the chemical taste of them has made eating food an unpleasurable experience. Although I could go on forever comparing the simple life of living in America to the more complex adjustment of living in Amman, there are many positive aspects to each scenario. For one, I have become water conscious. With global warming on the rise, gaining environmental friendly traits is NOT something that should be talked about in a negative way. Jordan being a poor water country is extremely unfortunate, but I am now conscientious of my water usage. As well, instead of buying from supermarkets where goods are imported, I have learned to buy from local sellers. Not only is the food comparably fresh and cheap, I am helping the seller’s family as well as the Jordanian economy.

veggie stand

It is the little things that I do not normally think about that make adjusting to life in Amman a little bit more difficult than I expected. Nonetheless, I love my life here so far and I am very excited for the next few months!

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