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Intensive Arabic Language and Culture in Amman, Jordan

Journal 1

Today is Friday, December 15th and my last weekend in Amman (the weekend here is Friday-Saturday, unlike the US). Despite this, my options for a last hurrah are somewhat limited due to protests downtown against the US government’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There are a lot of Palestinians that live here and the decision obviously did not go over very well with them. It’s truly amazing to be in this part of the world and see first-hand the impact that US policy can have world-wide. In America, watching the news feels very disconnected from the news itself, especially in a relatively mild city like Ann Arbor. To be here, seeing it unfold, seeing people’s reactions come from an utterly emotional level is pretty powerful. The protest have been continuing every weekend since the decision and will likely continue into the foreseeable future. This is an experience that would really be impossible to recreate in a classroom, the perspective it has given me is invaluable. As Americans, I am of the opinion that we sometimes downplay, in our minds, the incredibly central role that our government plays across the world and especially in the Middle East and it’s very interesting to see its effect in real life (of course, I’ve stayed far away from any situation that could have potential danger…).

Journal 2

Today is Saturday, December 16th and I spent most of the day downtown, shopping for Christmas gifts for my family. I love going downtown, haggling with the vendors, and practicing my Arabic. There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom, the best (and most fun) way to get really good at ammiya (spoken colloquial Arabic) is to go downtown and use it. I bought a kufiyya (traditional Jordanian scarf), and beautiful handmade turquoise bracelet (available at one of the many craft-shows constantly being held across the city), and a small, sterling-silver ring with an Arabic inscription. The shop owners are all very amiable but it’s still necessary to keep your head about you- I find that most of the time I am able to talk the owners down to 60-75% of the original asking price. Speaking Arabic helps a surprising amount as well- when the store owners see a group of ijanib (foreigners) walk into the store, the price goes up. When they hear our Arabic, they smile and the price goes down. It’s really incredible the degree of camaraderie gained strictly through an understanding of their language, which is such an essential part of their culture.

Journal 3

Today is Monday, December 18th and one of my last days of class. I have today, tomorrow, then the next day is my final exam, then the next day I fly back to America. I took my Oral Proficiency Exam yesterday and found that I increased 5 levels in proficiency. To put this in perspective, at the end of 4 semesters from Michigan, I increased 3 levels (from no-knowledge to Novice-Beginner). At the end of this semester, I am at Advanced-Mid, that’s something like 8 times the rate of improvement of Michigan. Not to say our program isn’t wonderful, in fact the opposite. Compared to students from other schools, I entered at a very high-level comparative to the number of years I’ve studied Arabic. However, if your goal is to learn Arabic then this is 100% the program for you. The program has a comfortable amount of rigor and is rarely boring. All of the information and vocabulary we learn is applicable to Jordanian society and will enable you to speak confidently about high-level societal and political topics ranging from regional politics to domestic violence to internet addiction. Tomorrow is the farewell dinner and I look forward to getting together with all of my friends and teachers one final time. The relationships I’ve formed from this program are truly special; there’s a unique kind of bond you form with people when you’re both struggling to learn a new language in a foreign country. I’ll take not only an advanced knowledge of Arabic with me, but also these relationships when I return to America.