Time Abroad: Fall 2008
Major: International Studies & Economics
The time I spent in Jordan was unquestionably my favorite semester of college. The Middle East is hardly to be confused with spring break in Cancun, but with the right approach and a sense of humor, it can be a truly fun and rewarding experience. The experience provided me with the opportunities to fulfill all of my objectives for study abroad. I had studied Arabic for two years at DU, but it wasn't until I was immersed in the country that I began to feel confident in my speaking abilities. I was also interested in learning more about the politics and economics of the Middle East region, and the diverse course offerings through CIEE allowed me to study precisely what I was interested in. Additionally, the direct interaction with residents of the region provided insights well beyond what could ever be attained through reading or a course at an American university.
Of course, the best experiences were outside of the classroom. I managed to travel all over Jordan, both on my own and as part of CIEE-guided trips. The CIEE trips were impressively well-organized and the staff was a blast to travel with. The trips I made on my own were not only a lot of fun, but also a great personal challenge to plan and survive in an unfamiliar place (even where I didn't speak the language). Although the social scene is different in Jordan than the U.S., I found plenty to do, whether in the form of more typical nightlife options around town or sharing a Ramadan feast with Jordanian friends and their families. My single favorite experience from Jordan was definitely the soccer tournament on campus. The tournament was held for foreign students from around the world, and I formed an American team to compete against the other Arab nations. We certainly stood out next to the other teams, but we were embraced as part of the competition. Although we finished in the middle of the pack in the tournament, it was unbelievably fun because of the energy and passion that surrounded the games in the stands and around campus. Even in an amateur context, the experience of "playing for your country" was amazing. The experience also opened the door for me to make several friends from the other teams and I found myself playing soccer all around the city with my new friends.
Studying in Jordan may not be for everybody. The experience can be challenging and require students to step out of their comfort zones. However, with the proper perspective it can be an amazing experience. Even if you don't go to Jordan, I would encourage everybody to visit an unconventional location that appeals to them - the experience has the potential to be so much deeper and more interesting. Unfamiliar places provide the chance to learn a lot about the rest of the world and yourself. Put yourself out there and see what happens.