Top 10 Favorite Moments of Studying Abroad
- Thursday Nights at Flow – While this seems like the stereotypical college student answer, Flow meant so much more to me than just a bar and club. After a long week of living under the cultural restrictions of Jordan (modest clothing, don’t draw attention, don’t interact with the opposite sex, drinking is frowned upon), each night at Flow was a little slice of home. I looked forward to getting dressed up each week and what new adventures we would concoct. However, the primary reason I loved Flow was due to the ease of meeting new people. Seven Barrels, our neighborhood bar, was Western, but there was still a strict table setting and not much mingling. At Flow, everyone dances together and talks. I met so many interesting people both from the Middle East and America. It is so fascinating to learn what brings so many diverse people to Jordan. I anticipate being asked what my favorite aspect of studying abroad was and I already know my answer will always be meeting so many new people. Flow was the easiest facilitator of this. Without it, my circle would be composed almost entirely of American CIEE students.
- Flying home from Sharm el-Sheikh – Perhaps it was due to a horrible-but-amusing-in-retrospect vacation, but the feeling of relief and comfort I felt during the flight home to Amman after spring break was only comparable to the feeling I get when returning home to Kentucky. I never expected to feel this way about Amman, so it was a surprise when I felt more of a connection to this obscure Middle Eastern city than Denver. It made me realize just how much I loved my life in Amman and validated my absurd decision to go somewhere so unusual.
- Coptic Cairo – Words cannot describe the string of lunacies that happened to us in Coptic Cairo. After being dropped off in front of a fruit market filled with gawking men, we wandered into a bombed car alley, and then through a block party where Egyptians were dancing and chasing us on bikes. We finally wandered into a store where we were swindled for two hours into buying Made in China goods. The climax of the afternoon was when we bumbled into a graveyard, kicked out, and then promptly directed to an exit through a small church where an elderly woman was singing to a crowd of two people. My friends and I always look back on this afternoon and laugh until we cry.
- Jomart’s Car – Similarly to Flow, rides in Jomart’s car made me feel at home in Amman. My favorite ride was when we squeezed 7 people into his compact Mercedes and sped down the street connecting 4th and 3rd circle, screaming along to Adele’s “Someone Like You.” It was a moment of unrestricted happiness shared among friends and I never thought I could make a such connection with people I had only met 3 months prior.
- Seven Barrels with DPS Kids – This happened the first night we moved into the apartments during orientation. We were so baffled by the new neighborhood, so when we ran into other CIEE kids in the DPS program and they invited us to come to Seven Barrels with them, we agreed. I had expected the first few weeks to be awkward due to forming new friendships and not yet feeling completely comfortable with each other, but the evening with the DPS kids changed that. We all stayed at Seven Barrels for hours discussing Quentin Tarantino movies. I remember laughing so hard all night and feeling such excitement to bond with everyone in the program.
Top 5 Middle Eastern Foods I’ll Miss
- Alawamah– This is an Arabic dessert send from Allah! They are fried balls the size of ping pong balls smothered in a juicy sugar syrup. When you bite into them, they are crunchy at first, but then the syrup oozes out from the inside and makes the ball juicy and sweet. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find these in America, but I’m going to try!
- Sesame Bars – I only discovered these recently, but they are similar in shape and size to granola bars, however, they are made completely out of sesame seeds. The seeds are held together by sweet syrup that tastes identical to the bonding agent in most other granola bars. Each bar costs only 10 cents, so I can buy 10 for a dollar! I stocked up to bring several home.
- Mansef – Jordan’s national dish is incomparable to anything else I’ve ever eaten. The blend of spiced meet, savory yogurt, and crunchy almonds makes it a must try, but the heaviness prevents it from being an every day meal. The ingredients are pretty uncommon, but I plan on trying to remake it for my family in America.
- Arabic Salad – I didn’t like the combination of cucumber, tomatoes, and parsley before coming to Amman, but now I can’t get enough! Andrew’s host mom makes the best salad in Jordan and I never got the recipe. I’ll just have to experiment until I get it right.
- Lebneh – Another rich Arabic staple, lebneh is a heavy yogurt typically eaten with bread for breakfast or lunch. I thought it was comparable to normal yogurt in terms of health benefits, but later learned it contains up to 30% fat! I definitely won’t be eating it any time soon, but I’ll fondly remember my bliss of eating it each morning with bread and jam.
Top 5 Things about Amman I am Glad to Leave
- Reliance on Taxis – Near the end of the program, I started declining plans that required a cab ride because the daily trips started to become too expensive. Paying for rides to and from campus each day was expensive enough, so spending even more money simply to go to an internet café became annoying. I can’t wait until I can drive myself to Starbucks without having to endure the act of finding a cab, talking to the driver, and watching my wallet’s contents dwindle.
- Cultural Clothing Expectations – Wearing long sleeves and jeans in 80-degree weather is horrible. End of story.
- Exercise Restricted to Indoors – It is not culturally acceptable to exercise outside. Perhaps it is unpopular due to the heat, but even in spring and winter, no one runs outside. I rarely run on a treadmill as it makes me feel like a mouse on a wheel, so I am used to running outside. Most of my peers joined a gym, but I didn’t see the sense in paying for something I don’t enjoy doing. As a result, I’ve felt lethargic and blob-like, so I am looking forward to start exercising again!
- “Welcome to Jordan!” – Starting the day I arrived in Amman, Jordanians have been saying this to me non-stop. It is typically meant as a come-on, which makes it exponentially more obnoxious. Each time I want to yell, “I LIVE IN THIS COUNTRY!” but restrain myself. I hate being seen as a tourist when I have been living in Amman for the past four months!
- The Disconnect from Western Media – Instead of hearing Rihanna or Justin Bieber on my way to class, I have had to listen to obscure Arabic music for the past semester. I can’t wait to turn on the radio and hear a world of new songs to catch up on. I also need to watch new episodes of several of my favorite TV shows. Being in the “dark” for so long was hard for someone who loves media!
Top 5 Favorite Sights
- Jerusalem – This city is at the center of so many religions and it was powerful to see the most holy sites. My favorite, however, was the Western Wall. The combination of history, its massiveness, and the practice of leaving prayers in the cracks were extremely interesting. I would definitely go back to Jerusalem in a heartbeat. Some cities we saw were solely historical or culture, but Jerusalem is a great mix of the two.
- Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt – This was the epicenter of the recent revolution! I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the revolution before coming to the Middle East, but seeing the square and then learning about the revolution and seeing graphic photos made the information so much more real.
- Burj Khalifa – I am a sucker for seeing things that are world record worthy! As a child, I remember always seeing the charts of the tallest buildings in the world. Although the Burj wasn’t on those lists as it was recently built, I can now say I’ve been in the tallest building for the foreseeable future!
- Sinai Peninsula – I expected the peninsula to be flat and covered by desert, but it had some of the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen. In addition to the aesthetics, I enjoyed visiting a small slice of the world that is considered extremely dangerous and is often only in the news for negative reasons. It proves that just because the media deems a place as “dangerous,” you won’t automatically become a statistic upon setting foot there!
- A Jordanian Woman Cab Driver – Although this isn’t necessarily a “sight,” I did find it interesting to see a few women cab drivers during my stay in Jordan. Recently, there was a large uproar and debate over whether or not women should be allowed to drive cabs (they are allowed to drive personal cars, unlike in Saudi). Clearly, the verdict fell in the women’s favor and now there are a few women cab drivers.
Top 5 Best Arabic Phrases I’ve Learned
- Yalla – (yall-uh) – This basically means “let’s go.” I often say it when I want my friends to hurry up or if I am ready to leave a place and want to announce it to the group. A common variant on this word is “Yella, bye!” which is just another way to say goodbye, although a bit more curt.
- Khallas– (hell-oss) – “Enough!” Parents often say this to children when they are misbehaving. My favorite time I used this word was when Caroline and I were making a cake. It was supposed to be a marbled cake so you only mix it a little bit. There were several people in the kitchen, so it was loud and Caroline didn’t hear me suggesting that she stop mixing. I yelled “KHALLAS!” and suddenly the room fell silent. This word works wonders! We also throw it into English sentences and say, “Okay, 5 more minutes and then I’m going to be khallas with this homework.”
- Shoo – (shoe) – “What?” This is colloquial Arabic and it came in handy so often, especially since Jordanian life can be confusing. My friends and created the idea of “Sho pictures” which we took whenever we saw something weird when touring.
- Hamdulilah – (ham-do-lill-luh) – It means, “Thanks be to Allah” but I always say it when a stressful situation is resolved. It is also a common a response to “How are you?”
- Ma barif – (ma-bar-if) – Another colloquial term, this means, “I don’t know.” In formal Arabic, the phrase is “la arif,” but we think the colloquial sounds better. My friends and I use the phrase when we don’t know the answer to an annoying question.