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.
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.