Dickinson College student of Economics, Mary Campbell, participated in AMIDEAST Education Abroad’s Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Amman, Jordan during the Fall 2012 semester. In this post, she reflects on her semester abroad in the Hashemite Kingdom.
Mansef, the national dish of Jordan, is a popular meal among all locals. I took this picture at the house of my language partner when she invited me over for lunch with her family. Having a language partner was a great resource that AMIDEAST provided which was not only important for improving my language skills but also broadening my cultural experience.
For example, at lunch her family was there and anxious to ask me many questions. The mother did not speak English making it challenging and quite frankly impossible to say everything I wanted to say in Arabic; however, it was worth it after I felt fulfillment knowing that even though I had a limited vocabulary I was able to communicate with someone and form a positive relationship which would have been very difficult otherwise. In addition, although differences were apparent between my language partner and I, such as religion, academic focus, family life, and location, it was fascinating to learn how we (both being 20 year old college students) had so much in common yet lived in completely different environments.
I love looking back on pictures taken from the scavenger hunt AMIDEAST sent us on during orientation to become acquainted with Amman and interact with Jordanians. It seems like it was so long ago, yet it was only from a little over a few months ago. I think back to what I knew when those pictures were taken and how difficult simple interactions in Arabic were and how impossible navigating Amman seemed. This program has been hugely successful as I have learned so much and come such a long way since the beginning. Before the program I never would have imagined I had the capability to write a three-page paper about the Muslim Brotherhood in Arabic or to successfully haggle over items in downtown Amman in Arabic.
Pictured are Samir, my host brother, Mama Janet, my host mother, and Madison, an American student living with me. I feel that my host family experience was extremely beneficial to me because I was forced to use Arabic all the time, as my host mother did not speak English. It was very difficult adjusting and at first I was afraid to speak with her as much as I should of because of the difficulties associated with our interactions. Many times I wouldn’t understand her or vice versa and I would become very frustrated. Not long after realizing that I was not benefiting anyone by not speaking with her often, I decided to initiate more conversations. Although by the end we still didn’t always understand each other perfectly, I had come to realize that learning a language isn’t about perfection. In the beginning stages, it is about being able to understand basic ideas and be understood by others. This involves getting over the fear of making mistakes, which the host family experience definitely allowed me to do.