Program alumni are the best resources for students interested in going abroad, and they are available to answer your questions. If you would like to talk to a recent student about their experience in Jordan, get in touch with the advisor, Bill Mayers.
Elias Henderson, Davidson College
When I got to Jordan, a lot of the people I met told me that “everyone always comes back to Jordan,” and they were so right. I can’t wait to return, as Jordan really felt like a home. Between studies, mastering Arabic (both colloquial and MSA), playing frisbee and soccer, and exploring the beautiful nation, I loved my time there. The Middlebury staff and programs were challenging but so much fun and very rewarding. I loved our trip to climb the highest mountain in Jordan! The opportunities this program offers are unmatched in the Middle East and Amman is a beautiful intersection of cultures and people. I miss knafeh and shawarma every day and I always tell my friends to add Amman to their lists of places to visit. They’ll welcome you like family and you’ll leave with friends that feel like relatives. I can’t reccommend Jordan and the Middlebury School there enough.
Rain Ji, Middlebury College
I arrived in Amman, Jordan feeling extremely nervous about my Arabic ability —- my previous classes were severely affected by the pandemic as I spent my sophomore year learning Arabic online. However, I was confident in Middlebury’s Language Pledge and looked forward to the progress I would make as a student of the program. The colloquial Arabic curriculum gave me many vocabularies and expressions that became critical to navigating life in Amman. In the end, I learned how to be vulnerable as I learn this incredibly difficult language, and I feel indebted to my professors and Middlebury program mentors who remained patient and encouraging throughout my time in Jordan. Additionally, I took a class on Jordanian film and songs that pushed my understanding of the Jordanian culture to a next level. During my education at Middlebury, Jordan was often left out of political science classes to make room for more visible conflicts in the region. Yet, I was able to be exposed to the perspectives of locals on various important issues through interviews with artists and directors.
Living in Amman is amazing! As a city girl, I thrived at the opportunities to participate in movie-screenings, go out with friends, and visit art galleries and museums. Even though Amman was less walkable than expected (the hills!), my friends and I still managed to explore cute cafes and take advantage of the three-day weekends.
Lastly, a theme that underlined my time in Amman was refugee and forced migration issues. I volunteered with Squash Dreamers, an organization that coaches young Syrian girls (and Jordanian girls) squash while teaching them basic English. Thanks to Middlebury Jordan’s “Project Week” platform, I visited Palestinian refugee camps, spoke with advocates and experts on the issue, and produced my own research paper —- in Arabic —- on such an important topic. I know I will take all the lessons, academic and personal, from my time in Jordan to my future endeavors!
Cheyenne Curley, Wellesley College
Middlebury’s program in Amman, Jordan challenges you. From the second I arrived in Jordan my lingual abilities were tested. The taxi ride from the airport required me to put my limited Al-Kitaab vocabulary to the test and my initial conversations with my host family required me to pick up new everyday words and expressions. And after a week of orientation, I signed the language pledge and spent the rest of the year trying to introduce myself and understand my new community in a language that wasn’t my own.
While this immersive aspect of the program might be daunting (at least it was to me before I started the program), it is really a gift. Middlebury’s language pledge not only helps improve lingual abilities, but it develops patience. I had to be patient with my peers while they tried to speak, and I had to be patient with myself when I wanted to communicate complex thoughts. Thus, the language pledge not only gave me the ability to speak with people that would have previously been inaccessible, it also gave me a unique way to build relationships with my peers.
On top of the immersive experience Middlebury provides, it also offers a welcoming community. The Middlebury teachers, staff, and Jordanian peer mentors are accessible and able to help with any problem you might encounter while integrating into Jordanian life. Additionally, life in Amman is safe and exciting. I found the social scene to be fun and the food fantastic.
The year I spent with Middlebury as a college senior was my favorite undergraduate experience. This year I will be participating in CASA (a post graduate Arabic program) in Amman Jordan, something that was only made possible through my lingual growth during my time at Middlebury. I am so thankful for the skills and friendships I have gained from this program and I cannot recommend it enough to other students!
Julia Kelly, Scripps College
After completing the Middlebury Summer Language School in Arabic two summers prior, I had fallen in love with the Language Pledge, and I could not wait to touch down in Amman and begin my academic year with Middlebury. Up to this point, my previous education had been solely in Modern Standard Arabic and learning dialect had seemed a different (and frankly scary) challenge. On the first day with my Jordanian host family, I understood very little of their conversations, and each time they asked me a question, I made educated guesses about how I should respond. After two weeks, I could understand the majority of what was being said but I could not yet respond properly in dialect. After two months, I had more difficultly speaking in MSA (which I could previously speak quickly and without thinking) than I did Jordanian dialect. With diligent and enthusiastic study, the level of understanding I shared with Jordanians with whom I interacted increased exponentially, and not just linguistic barriers, but also the cultural barriers dissipated. This is not to say that my progression in Jordanian dialect was unique, my story simply highlights the efficacy of the beloved Language Pledge and the kindness of Jordanians who humored me, taught me, and corrected me. My interest in Jordanian dialect spread to a curiosity for other Arabic dialects and, I picked up the basics of Palestinian and Syrian dialects from soap operas and friends.
While studying with Middlebury in Jordan, I had the opportunity to volunteer at Reclaim Childhood, an organization that provides afterschool sports programs for refugee girls, and intern at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, one of the foremost think tanks in the Middle East. I could only dream of having both of these experiences in America. Through the Refugee and Forced Migration course that I took by way of Middlebury paired with living among refugees from all around the Arab world sparked in me a deep interest in refugee welfare. I look forward to continuing my Arabic language learning and Middle Eastern Studies in an academic and career setting.
AJ Naddaff, Davidson College
At the University of Jordan, I took a number of classes taught by Middlebury Language expertise staff that would not have been possible to take anywhere else in the world - such as courses on Forced Migration and Refugee Issues, Economics of the Middle East, and Arabic-English Translation. However, by far the greatest asset from my year abroad was the emancipating stage I quickly reached where I came to view experiential learning as more worthy than the confines of traditional academic study. For me, this meant fully engaging with the local culture with an open mind, a good sense of humor, an insatiable curiosity and a pocket notebook at all times.
Jordanians are known for their frown, so it became a personal goal of mine each morning to crack that. Beyond the surface level, I met some of the most hospitable and caring people I’ve ever known, and drank more tea than I would have ever imagined. Since Jordan has consistently been the nexus of displaced populations, I also befriended Gazans, Egyptians, Syrians, Armenians, and Iraqis. During my free time, I interned at Radio al-Balad, Jordan’s first independent media organization, developed and syndicated my own stories with Al Monitor, taught French classes to a group of mainly Syrian refugees at Souriat Across Borders, learned and performed some basic Dabke (an Arab folk dance native in the Levant). My local friends brought me to a traditional Islamic funeral for three days, Jordanian weddings, taught me how to cook and wake up each morning listening to Fairuz. Not to mention, I gained quite the contacts with the Bedouin community in both the center of Jordan and the south, where I’ve now slept in the Petra caves. The truth is that Jordan has become like my second country; I’m indebted to some of the people here who took me in as family and I’m excited to return in the hopefully near future. For this coming summer, I’ll be taking another leap into the unknown, where I’m headed to Kosovo for two months to report on Islamic identity and combatting radicalization through the support of a Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting grant
Karina Toy, Middlebury College
My time in Jordan was transformational and I am incredibly happy that I went abroad. I originally went because I had to as an International Politics and Economics Major. To be honest, even though I’d already had an awesome experience abroad I really didn’t want to go. I was extremely nervous about the cultural differences in the Middle East, in addition to feeling that I was missing out on classes and opportunities back at Midd. However, I am super happy that I went! I not only had the opportunity to travel to an incalculable number of countries (depending on what counts as a country to you, I went to Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Spain, and Gibraltar), I also learned a lot, ate a lot of delicious food, and met a lot of amazing people.
Especially in today’s political climate, the knowledge I gained abroad with regards to Middle Eastern culture and history, as well as the three monotheistic religions has been more useful to my academic career and understanding of the world than I ever thought possible. The Middlebury School Abroad in Jordan was instrumental in allowing me to make the most of my experience, introducing us to Jordanian mentors, giving students the freedom to travel and see the region (if it was safe of course), as well as providing opportunities to get involved in the community. In addition to all of this, my Arabic skills improved drastically while abroad and I am now able to use the language to communicate and connect with people all over the world.
Sierra Kaplan-Nelson, Stanford University
I chose the Middlebury program to study abroad in Jordan because it has a reputation of being the most rigorous in respect to language learning and cultural immersion, and it lived up to that reputation. From the fifth day of being in Jordan until the last day, with only a few small breaks in between, we pledged to speak only Arabic - with each other, with our host families, with taxi drivers, with Jordanian friends, and with our teachers. I came to Jordan perhaps the least prepared of my peers; my fusha was tragic and my 3amiyya (spoken dialect) nonexistent. Luckily our language classes were both rigorous and forgiving, and my professors for both fusha and 3amiyya expected a lot from us but were patient when we forgot words, stuttered out the wrong thing, or horribly conjugated a verb. My friends Lubna and Muhammad, both mentors for the program, let me embarrass myself again and again but still continued to speak to me. I discovered it was possible to have social interactions by going to tea shops and hookah lounges using only the minimum amount of Arabic. Never before was I so motivated to learn anything than when my power to communicate was taken away. Soon I was having brief but satisfying conversations with my host mom over breakfast, talking about my future life plans and asking about her son. Speaking with taxi drivers almost every day provided some of the best random language practice - it was always a surprise what someone wanted to talk about, from the Nakba to Islamic theology to food in America vs. Jordan. Honestly the language pledge was really challenging and I was terrified of not being able to get the most out of my experience because of it, but in the end it was the most empowering part of the program.