Hello, readers! Currently I am in a coffee shop (the cursed Gloria Jean’s that I blog so fondly about) after class while I waste three hours waiting for a guest speaker lecture on LGBT rights in Jordan. The topic itself is quite interesting, but to be honest, the “Arabic coffee and sweets” that CIEE promised would be there is what is ultimately motivating my attendance. It is currently 1:25pm here and I have already completed my homework of writing 10 simple sentences in Arabic using the pronouns and adjectives we learned in class.
Today’s blog post will be about the University of Jordan and the differences in the learning environment as compared to my classes at the University of Denver. Let’s start with the basic facts. DU has 10,000 students. UJ has 40,000. I find there to be ample space in Denver to weave through students walking in the quad when I only have 10 minutes to transverse campus between classes. Does this hold true in Jordan? I’ll sum up my answer in this simple photo…
Needless to say, UJ reminds me more of a mosh pit than a college campus. Perhaps this is due to the students’ affinity for walking slowly, idly chatting in the middle of sidewalks, and the mere volume of bodies packed between buildings. It makes me miss the first week of classes when CIEE students were the only ones on campus and the Jordanians were still on break.
Superficially, DU and UJ look the same. The architecture of DU’s Boettcher center has the same retro vibe as many of the UJ buildings. Also, there are a lot of trees and green space on both campuses. However, all of UJ’s trees have a unique feature: the bottoms are painted white.
This gives the tree-lined walkways a very artsy feel. During orientation, someone asked the reason behind the white paint. Apparently in the summer, Amman has a problem with bugs, specifically “flying cockroaches.” I’m not sure if they ACTUALLY have flying cockroaches or if something was lost in translation, but I’m glad I won’t be around to find out. The white paint prevents the bugs from blending into the tree trunks and allows students to efficiently avoid them. I just like the unique appearance.
My Arabic class on campus is held in the Educational Sciences building. Our professor, Rabi’aa, frequently laments this fact and tells us the ES majors are the worst students who are not smart enough to study anything else. We are told that the occasional fight does break out on campus, and when it does, it happens in the ES building. Lovely!
The classroom we have in this building is very basic. The chairs are bolted to the floor and only a small radiator heats the room. When we have class at 8am, the room hasn’t had enough time to heat up, so it is often the same temperature as outside. Also, graffiti litters the walls and I am plagued every day by staring at a rudimentary drawing of a large female face that is scribbled onto the back of the door. The only technological addition to the classroom is the white board on the wall. In total, it is extremely basic.
We have only been attending classes for three weeks, but I have come to realize that I do not need the fancy “smartboards” or padded swivel chairs to learn. Rabi’aa is an incredible teacher and my friends are impressed by how much I have learned in only three weeks. Class usually consists of Rabi’aa writing on the board and calling us up to connect the letters or read the words she wrote. We have a textbook, but we usually only refer to it when doing homework.
Now when I think about all of the posters, projectors, computers, and speakers that adorn the classrooms at DU, I feel incredibly overwhelmed. How can anyone learn when there is a sensory overload, distracting from the actual material? I think all of the “extras” that are included in American classrooms are merely a status symbol used to give the illusion of a higher education. In reality, the quality of education depends almost completely on the teacher. A university could spend billions of dollars on technology, but can an iPad personalize its method of explanation to help the students better understand a concept? Nope. Now, this leads to the discussion of the need for better salaries and more respect for teachers, but that is another blog post entirely. For now, let me sum up this post by saying, yes, the facilities at UJ are basic, but I am certain this semester will be challenging and fulfilling because I have everything I truly need: a caring teacher, a pencil and paper, and my motivation to learn.