Demanding, rewarding Arabic language experience that made me appreciate Amman! January 08, 2016

By (Urban Studies, Barnard College) - abroad from 01/18/2015 to 05/15/2015 with

CIEE: Amman - Arabic Language

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My Arabic speaking and listening skills improved immensely, especially my Jordanian dialect. I gained a lot of personal confidence, both in using my Arabic in the city and dealing with situations where I had to stand up for myself. I also made some amazing friends, since the students attracted to this program tend to be super interesting, intelligent, and open-minded.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The on-site coordinator of the Arabic Language program, Zeina Al-Karaki, was extremely organized and helpful. Given the small size of our group, she was able to address individual problems promptly. The CIEE director for Amman, Elena Corbett, also seemed very competent, although we interacted with her less.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living with a host family comes with its challenges, including communication, curfews, and family obligations, but the experience was worthwhile for the cultural and language immersion it provided.

* Food:

In general, host families provided breakfast and dinner, and students bought their own lunches while at school during the day. Many students struggled with the lack of control over food and the less than nutritious Jordanian diet (lots of rice and bread, few green vegetables.) Personally, I enjoyed most of the food that my host mom provided and felt like I had enough freedom to purchase other foods during the day and keep additional snacks in my room.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt well integrated in the culture in terms of my host family, but I did not make many Jordanian friends. Since the classes were only with Americans, it took additional and intentional effort to meet local students at PSUT.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have any experience with the health care.

* Safety:

I generally felt safe in Amman. There is minimal street crime there. However, be prepared for street harassment, especially white women who clearly stand out. Many Jordanian men stare and shout at foreigners, although I never heard of anything escalating beyond that. I sometimes felt uncomfortable walking from the main road to my house at night, but I never actually had a problem, and most students had taxis drop them off closer to their homes than I did.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I found Amman to be a generally affordable city. CIEE provides monthly stipends for students, so much of my transportation costs were covered by the stipend. Students are primarily dependent on taxis in Amman, but they are cheap (usually 1-3 JD for a ride.) Food is also cheap if you eat at local restaurants or grab snacks at the dukans (shops) near campus. However, going to more "western" or "American" establishments will cost you, especially if you want to drink alcohol which is available but highly taxed in Jordan.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Take buses if you live near the bus routes. From my home stay, I could get to school for 35 cents in the bus (plus a 20 minute walk) or a 2 JD taxi ride. The savings add up if you're willing to take the bus and walk a little farther. Otherwise, share cabs with friends who live nearby. Taxi drivers are usually willing to stop on the way to pick other people up.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

The language pledge is strongly emphasized by the professors and staff, although they did not punish anyone for slipping up every once in a while. Off campus, students had to hold each other accountable to maintain the pledge, and various individuals were more or less serious about this. Some host families and siblings also spoke decent/good English, so some students found that they did not use as much Arabic at home. I forced myself to only use Arabic at home, except when I really didn't know words that my host mom did know in English, but I was less committed to the pledge when hanging out with friends away from school. During the Rural Retreat in February, we all strongly adhered to the pledge, which definitely helped boost our confidence when returning to Amman.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Third-Year Arabic I
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Talk to your host siblings, watch TV with your family, try to keep the language pledge with friends (even when not under supervision), don't be afraid to make mistakes

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Professors
  • Classes taught in Arabic
  • Other American students
* What could be improved?
  • Integration with Jordanian students
  • Academic rigor of classes (although this was also a nice break for a semester)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish that I had known that the program would not provide much integration between us and Jordanian students. Although I would not have chosen a different program, some students may value creating relationships with local students of their own age rather than only their host family.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!