May 2017

My Study Abroad Experience in Jordan

Posted May 15, 2017 by Dinah Holmquist '18

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petra-mesp-2017

This past semester I participated in a study abroad program in Jordan with BestSemester’s Middle East Studies Program. My time in Jordan was unbelievably amazing and I learned a lot about culture, the Middle East, myself, and relationships with those different than me. The Middle East Studies Program focused on studying Middle Eastern culture, the religion of Islam, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Arabic language! I enjoyed living in the Jordanian culture for three months, practicing my Arabic, and getting to know Jordanians—they are some of the most hospitable and welcoming people I know! We also spent time visiting Israel/Palestine, Cairo (saw the Pyramids!!), and Morocco, gaining a broader perspective of Middle Eastern culture.

One of my favorite memories of the semester was our visit to a local Jordanian’s family home in the countryside. Here I saw true Jordanian hospitality at its finest. When we arrived, they had made our group a dinner of the national Jordanian dish mansaf—a platter of rice and lamb, covered with a creamy yogurt sauce. The father of the house kindly made a speech saying how he sees us all as his own sons and daughters for this night. After dinner, we sat out in their backyard, while they served us tea (go to any house in Jordan and this serving of tea is a staple). The rest of the night was filled with singing and dancing from the four grown sons of the house and their family! Every part of this night demonstrated the amazing hospitality and kindness of Jordanian people and is an amazing memory that won’t be easily forgotten.

One of the most significant things I learned over the semester that I want to share with others is this: To approach those different from you with a spirit of openness, listening, and humility, instead of a spirit of hostility, defensiveness, or judging. I think this was an interesting time to be in the Middle East; it provided me with context and personal experience for understanding topics such as Islam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For example, by forming personal relationships with and interacting with Jordanian Muslims like in my story above in the Jordanian countryside, I am better able to understand their world and their point of view. From the student sitting next to us in a class to a culture halfway around the world; if we begin with this spirit of humility and listening, instead of one of hostility, we will go much farther in our relationships with those different than us.

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Dinah Holmquist '18 is an anthropology major who studied abroad with BestSemester's Middle East Studies Program during the spring 2017 semester. To learn more about study abroad options available at Wheaton, visit the Global and Experiential Learning website. Photo captions (top to bottom): A group visit to Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World; Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan.

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