Getting Ready

I leave for Jordan in just 61 days!  I can’t wait for this amazing and unique adventure.  I’ve done a lot of paperwork & research to get to this point, and I don’t feel that I’m even halfway done!  My flights are booked, I am committed to the program, my transfer credits are approved, and I’ve bought some new clothes that I hope will help me blend in, but I still feel like a complete novice when it comes to spoken Arabic, Jordanian history, and the cultural norms and expectations that I will encounter.  This blog will be my journal of experiences when I get to Jordan, and before that, will serve as a place where I provide and evaluate my pre-trip research on what to expect.


Introduction

First, a little bit about me and my goals for Jordan.  I’m Christine, and I will be spending my semester abroad in Amman, Jordan, during Fall 2016, which will be 16 weeks.  I am an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio, double-majoring in International Studies and Political Science with a concentration on the Middle East, and double-minoring in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies.  This will be the first semester of my senior year, but my second semester abroad: I spent Spring 2015 abroad in Luxembourg & travelling throughout Europe.  You can find my blog about that semester here.

My primary goals of studying abroad in Jordan are to improve my Arabic fluency, especially in the Jordanian spoken dialect, and to learn as much as I can about Jordanian culture and history through cultural exchange & diplomacy.  While abroad, I also hope to travel throughout Jordan, and potentially to other countries in the region, if possible, like Egypt, Israel, or Lebanon.

Before this trip, I have studied Arabic for 3 years in college, but mostly only formal (fusHa / fos7a) Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), with some Shaami dialect studies.  In Jordan, I will be taking 12 credit hours of Arabic; 6 hours of MSA, 3 hours of Jordanian spoken Arabic, and 3 hours of Media Arabic.


Getting Organized, and Getting Credit

So, for anyone who might be reading this blog and hoping to travel to Amman in the future for the same reasons, I will discuss how I came to plan and commit to studying abroad in Amman for an entire semester (16 weeks).  As an International Studies major, my curricula requires that I spend at least one semester abroad, preferably in my area of study.  I technically fulfilled this requirement by spending a semester abroad in Europe, but I knew that if I truly wanted to learn Arabic and become fluent, I would have to immerse myself in the culture of an Arabic-speaking country.  Luckily, I have a couple scholarships that apply to study abroad that have helped to afford these amazing opportunities.

Since I also speak French, my first choice was Morocco (which remains my #1 top dream travel destination), but the spoken Arabic dialect in Morocco is dramatically different from the one I have spent time learning (Shaami, spoken in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and some of Palestine).  Therefore, in order to become fluent in this spoken dialect, I decided to go to Jordan, as Syria and Palestine are not options at this time because of the tragic, deadly, and unfortunately long-term violent conflicts in those regions.  Lebanon would also have been a good option for me, especially since many people in Lebanon also speak French, but I wanted to be sure that I would learn and use Arabic as much as possible.

Therefore, I decided to study abroad in Jordan.  Initially, I wanted to go during a summer, and do an intensive language program (I was looking at AMIDEAST’s programs).  However, circumstances changed, and I found myself looking at semester programs instead.  Having completed almost all of my requirements, and strategically planned my semesters and courses in such a way that allowed me to consider this, I started looking at the kinds and amounts of credits I could receive from a semester program.

For many reasons, including credits, amount of included planned travel, availability of host family opportunities, emphasis on community engagement & volunteering, overall cost, and reputation, I decided on CIEE’s Language & Culture program.  I won’t know exactly which courses/levels I will be taking until I arrive in Jordan in August, but I will for sure be taking:

  • Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) – 6 credit hours
  • Colloquial Jordanian Arabic – 3 credit hours
  • Media Arabic – 3 credit hours
  • 2 elective courses; the choices are:
    • The Environment and the Politics of Water (3)
    • International Relations and Diplomacy in the Middle East (3)
    • Seminar on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (3)
    • Contemporary Arab Women Writers (3)
    • America and the Arabs (3)
    • Introduction to Islam (3)

If all of these courses were offered, my top two choices would be Intro to Islam and International Relations and Diplomacy in the Middle East.  If you want to learn more about these courses, you can look at the program website or CIEE’s syllabi website.

Of these courses, the MSA and colloquial Arabic credit hours will not actually apply to any of my major or minor requirements; I have already taken all the MSA courses offered at my school, and colloquial Arabic credits are not required for the Arabic minor.  However, the Media Arabic course will fulfill the last 3 credit hour requirements of my Arabic minor.  Furthermore, I will choose to take at least one of the political courses offered, which will be applied to my both my Political Science major and my Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS) minor.  Finally, the second elective will apply to my MEIS minor.  Therefore, while I will be taking and transferring 18 credit hours, only 9 of them will be actually applied to my diploma requirements.


Look for more later on what I’m packing, how I’m studying, and what I’m planning!

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