Matthew Woodruff, a student of History and Arabic at the University of Cincinnati, participated in a month-long Intensive Arabic Program with AMIDEAST the summer of 2012. As a scholarship recipient, Matthew wrote this essay reflecting on his experiences in Amman, Jordan.
Reflecting on my experience in Amman this past month, I find it appropriate to say that my time there served as a great introduction to the Arab world and the study abroad experience.
As an undergrad student focusing my studies in Arabic and World History, gaining first-hand insight and cross-cultural understanding is crucial to developing my skill set within my discipline. Although the length of my program was only month, I was able to share many great moments and gain a better appreciation for Jordanian culture. One of the toughest parts of my experience was dealing with the ways in which other students dealt with culture shock and opinions that were expressed that didn’t necessarily agree with my view point; though tough at times, this experience allowed me an opportunity to learn more about my own culture and how culture is such a crucial part to a person’s identity, whether or not they are aware of it.
Before I started the program, I had heard a mixed variety of perspectives on the city of Amman, particularly in regards to how Western the city was in comparison to other cities in the Arab world. I came to find that like most cities, what you find is often what you come there looking for. For those students who find comfort in a more ‘Western’ setting, Amman has many areas that are comfortable and appropriate for Western tourists. Likewise, for those looking to get away from Western familiarity there are also tons of places within the city that have a much different feel to them. Due to the brevity of my program and the intensive nature, I was not able to explore the city as much as I would have liked to, but I was able to leave with the goal of one day very soon returning to Amman in order to build an even closer relationship with the city. If there is one major regret that I have after leaving Amman it is not taking the opportunity to talk with more Jordanians and get better insight in to Jordanian lifestyles; while I did spend a great deal of time talking with my language partner and host family, I left with the feeling that there were so many narratives out there that I didn’t have the opportunity to expose myself to. In a sense however this sense of not having enough plays well into my goal to return soon to the Arab world and spend a much longer period of time where I will hopefully be able to fulfill my interests in learning about the cultures and societies that make up the diverse region. As this being my first time outside of the United States, all I can say is that it has instilled into me a thirst for cultural learning and adventure that I do not see going away any time soon.