Truly can’t believe there are only 50 short days between me and Amman. I don’t think it will really hit me until I get on the plane! Every day I get more excited, nervous, curious, scared, and appreciative of this opportunity. This blog post will be more about how I am preparing myself!
Flying, Packing, and What to Wear
A little about the logistics of studying abroad in Amman for 16 weeks. I booked my flights just under 4 months in advance, and the total cost was, luckily, under $1,000 USD. I did my best to avoid the 13- to 18-hour flights, since I hate flying and those would have been a nightmare for me, but of course, when traveling halfway across the world, one must be willing to fly a long ways.
For packing, my flights will allow me to have 1 checked bag plus a carry on (inshaAllah), so I am planning on taking one big suitcase, one big backpack, and my purse. I haven’t started trying to fit everything in there yet, but last time I studied abroad for a semester I took the same amount of luggage and had everything I needed.
I am planning to pack very versatilely for Jordan. I took a lot of advice from this excellent blog post about what to wear in Jordan, and this one with some important tips. Journeywoman also had some important information, and Adventurous Kate’s pictures were a great example.
I’m going to take jeans, leggings, loose pants, and a maxi skirt to wear day to day, and two maxi dresses with high necklines for more formal occasions. In terms of tops, I’m still a little hesitant on what all to take, as I want to look fashionable but not revealing (which is difficult to find in America lately). However, I’m going to take plenty of sweaters, cardigans, and overshirts (like a jean shirt) for layering in order to stay covered up, as well as scarves that could be used to cover my hair when necessary. I’m also going to take 1-2 athletic pieces for hiking & working out.
For shoes, I’m still looking for a pair of sturdy, thick-soled, and stylish sandals I can wear for the fall months, plus taking some good boots for the rainy & snowy times. I’ll also be taking some sneakers, casual shoes, and flip flops.
I’m planning on taking an old purse of mine, seeing what’s fashionable, and buying a cute & cheap purse there, in order to blend in and not have my bag become a target for pickpockets.
In terms of objects & toiletries, I’ll be taking my computer and phone, plus some mini soap & shampoo, but full-sized versions of my favorite lotions, make-up products, etc., that I use frequently and am not sure I’ll be able to find there. I won’t be taking a towel – I’ll buy one in Amman as soon as possible. I’ll also be taking my wonderful Al-Kitaab book plus a couple reference books, and some notebooks if they fit. More later on the random things I throw in.
Important note for anyone considering a trip like this: I had to jump through some hoops in order to obtain 6 months of my prescription at once before going abroad, as I won’t be able to get it there very easily. I will be taking it all with me, labeled clearly and translated, with my doctor’s signature, in order to ensure that I have no problems with customs.
Preparing for Arabic Immersion
So, as I said in my last post, I have been studying Arabic in college for three years, using the Al-Kitaab textbook series. However, my curriculum has focused almost entirely on MSA instead of actual colloquial Arabic, so I still feel like a complete novice when speaking Arabic. Furthermore, if you are familiar with the Al-Kitaab textbook series, you are aware of how random and limited the vocabulary is that I have been exposed to.
Therefore, I have been doing my best to increase my vocabulary and practice speaking as much as I can before I go to Amman. Here’s what I’ve been trying:
- I looked up the Arabic word for basically everything in my house, wrote them down on little pieces of paper, and taped them to everything. This has helped me to learn so many household words that I think will be really useful (like water, towel, plug, and shower) that I have somehow never seen or heard before, thanks to Al-Kitaab.
- Once I finish learning all the vocab words for these items, I am going to write little pieces of spoken Arabic dialogue about them (e.g., “Is the towel clean?” “I would like some water”) and tape them right next to the words, in order to improve my useful Arabic skills.
- I joined a MeetUp.com group for Arabic speakers & learners in my area, which meets every other week to practice speaking and reading. It’s been extremely helpful with keeping up and improving my speaking skills and learning new vocabulary.
- I followed some prominent Jordanian figures (like the Queen of Jordan) on Twitter, who tweet in Arabic. I do my best to read their tweets, which helps me with reading and identifying vocabulary outside of context.
- I try to read headlines in Arabic, and I listen to slowed-down news broadcasts in Arabic to work on my reading and listening skills for different topics.
- I review old flashcards of Arabic and occasionally write mini-essays in Arabic using words I already know to review.
History & background
I like to learn a lot about the history & culture of various places that I visit, even in my own community, and so I have already started learning more about the history of Jordan. Here’s a quick overview of what I’ve been reading about:
Jordan’s formal name since 1949 is The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (المملكة الأردنية الهاشمية) and it borders Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Palestine, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. The Jordan River separates it from Israel & Palestine since the creation of its formal territory in 1916 by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which established the Emirate of Transjordan under British control.
beautiful and elaborate capital at Petra, whose ruins are a major tourist attraction today for their beauty and history. Muslim empires came to Transjordan in the 7th century, and the O
ttomans incorporated into their empire from the 16th century until World War I.
Since then, its history has led it to independence. The Great Arab Revolt in 1916 (in which Lawrence of Arabia gained his notoriety) began with Sharif Hussein, the Emir of Mecca: “Sharif Hussein’s objective in undertaking the Great Arab Revolt was to establish a single independent and unified Arab state stretching from Aleppo (Syria) to Aden (Yemen), based on the ancient traditions and culture of the Arab people, the upholding of Islamic ideals and the full protection and inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities” (source). The United Kingdom, the major colonial power at the time, agreed (through Lawrence of Arabia) to support Arab nationalism & independence if they revolted against the Ottomans; however, the two sides had different understandings of this agreement. Ultimately, the UK and France divided up the area that would have become the Arab state into many smaller states, upon which they had colonial control or influence, in the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement. The agreement also put Palestine under international administration, paving the way for the later creation of Israel.
The British Mandate for Palestine (officially introduced in 1923), in a supplementary memorandum, excluded Transjordan from the provisions that would govern Palestine, effectively identified the official territory of Transjordan, distinct from Palestine: “On May 15, 1923, Britain formally recognized the Emirate of Transjordan as a state under the leadership of Emir Abdullah. This angered the Zionists, as it effectively severed Transjordan from Palestine and so reduced the area of any future Jewish national home in the region. The treaty stipulated that Transjordan would be prepared for independence under the general supervision of the British high commissioner in Jerusalem, and recognized Emir Abdullah as head of state. In May 1925, the Aqaba and Ma’an districts of the Hijaz became part of Transjordan” (source).
After World War II, the United Kingdom gave up many of its colonies and mandates around the world, including Transjordan. In 1946, the Treaty of London was signed, which ended the British mandate in Transjordan and officially recognized its independence. May 25th is still celebrated as Independence Day in Jordan, and it joined the United Nations in 1955. The name was changed to “Jordan” rather than Transjordan in 1949.
Transjordan opposed the creation of Israel in 1948, and controlled the West Bank territory from 1948-67, granting all West Bank residents Jordanian citizenship. However, this
annexation was viewed as illegal by many other Arab states, and was only formally recognized by Britain, Iraq, and Pakistan. The West Bank became under Israeli control following the Six-Day War in 1967, and Jordan renounced its claims to the land in 1988. In 1993, after the Oslo Accords, King Hussein of Jordan signed the Washington Declaration, which formally ended the 46-year-long state of war between Jordan and Israel, and in 1994, the Israel-Jordan peace treaty was signed, which brought normal relations and resolved territorial disputes. Since then, Jordan’s foreign relations strategy has sought peace with all of its neighbors.
The current King of Jordan is Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, who ascended the throne in 1999 after the death of his father. His reign has been characterized by many economic liberalization policies, which have created one of the freest economies in the region. Furthermore, political and civil liberties have expanded slowly but surely: the first parliamentary elections were held in 2003, and the first local elections (since 1999) were held in 2007. Recent elections have been criticized by various political parties in Jordan for corruption, and Jordanian citizens protested the government during the Arab Spring in 2011, resulting in the appointment of three different Prime Ministers in succession.
Click here for more of Jordan’s history.