Frustrating, still awesome August 20, 2018

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 01/26/2018 to 05/15/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury In Amman

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My speaking ability improved, my listening skills improved dramatically, and I gained a new outlook on Jordanian culture and Arab culture more broadly.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Language courses (Fusha and Amiyya) were good, although they assigned so much homework that they made true free time rare. Content courses were extremely boring and moved much too slowly.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved my host family (Samar al-Qaisi), especially the kids, but my room was not adequate. Specifically, my bed was very uncomfortable. The mattress was thin, lumpy, and too small for the bed. Another student had bedbugs in her room and consequently was completely miserable for the first several weeks of the program. In the future, program administrators need to visit host families and inspect the living areas where they're planning to house students at least once a year. Also, I specifically stated in my housing questionnaire that I did not want a roommate, and I was placed with a roommate anyway. She was difficult to get along with at times, and this affected my overall experience negatively.

* Food:

My host family (al-Qaisi) did not provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. There were usually adequate materials for making breakfast, and Friday breakfasts with my family were amazing, one of the consistent highlights of my experience in Jordan, but there weren't always leftovers with which to make lunch, and we were never given ingredients for making basic lunch foods like sandwiches. We needed cold cuts or at least peanut butter and jelly. There was always dinner on weekdays, but Friday-Sunday we could not depend on food. Samar would often be out of the house on the weekends, and if she wasn't there there wasn't anything to eat. Also, I know the diet is different in Jordan, but there were so few healthy options. Unless I was going to a sit-down restaurant, which I could rarely afford, I was only eating bread, rice, falafel, chicken, and beef. No significant portions of fruits, vegetables, or fish. Consequently, I gained almost 15 pounds in Jordan.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I got to attend some wonderful cultural events with my host family like big dinners at my host mom's mom's house, Ramadan iftars at uncles and aunt's houses, and even a wedding! But at the university, I didn't feel we were integrated with the Jordanian students at all. The murshideen (mentors) were helpful, but we hardly ever saw them on regular school days. We only saw them at special events, so we couldn't really form friendships. It would be great if some of the non-language classes could be designed to appeal to some of the mentors. Maybe if one or two classes were taught in English, that would create an opportunity for professors to share the full depth and breadth of their knowledge, give Jordanian students an opportunity to practice their English listening and speaking skills in an academic setting, and give American students a chance to really engage with their professors and peers intellectually. One of my problems with my classes was that we were never really communicating interesting or profound ideas because our speaking abilities were so limited. Actually, I felt really intellectually starved in my classes all semester.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

When I had a health issue, Zain was very prompt in taking me to a doctor and helping me deal with it. But I hardly ever got exercise (perhaps money for a gym membership should have been given to every student?), and, as I mentioned before, some of our homestays were not helpful for our health. Several people had bedbugs, and I hardly slept during my first week in Amman, partly because of my bed. Also, my roommate and I had violent diarrhea three times, each time after eating a specific dish made by our host mom (mulukhiyah). Maybe warn future students about this dish?

* Safety:

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

I was frustrated with certain things about my living situation and my classes, but I wouldn't trade the opportunity to live with a host family, explore Amman, practice my Arabic, and travel around Jordan, Israel/Palestine, and Lebanon.

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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? About $70-$100?

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

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? Level 2 Arabic at Middlebury
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? If your roommate insists on speaking English, don't hang out with them.

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?
  • Program trips - Wadi Rum was a highlight for me
  • Being on the University of Jordan campus
* What could be improved?
  • Ensure that living conditions are adequate and HONOR students' requests about having or not having a roommate
  • Make non-language classes cover more material. Teach at least one lower-level and one upper-level class in English so students can really engage with their teachers
  • Prioritize students' fitness more. They must have better diets and they MUST have opportunities to exercise. That's not something you should expect them to pay for because many cannot afford to.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I'd known that many students would not honor the language pledge. The program administration's method of scolding us for not honoring the pledge was not effective. They need to create a designated time and space for speaking English (daily! even if it's just one hour in Janoora!) so that students can let off steam and don't feel like they have to create opportunities to speak English for themselves, because then they end up speaking it way too much.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Amiyya 1.5

Course Department:
Instructor: Nadia al-Assaf
Instruction Language: Arabic
Comments: This was my favorite class! I think I learned the most in Amiyya with Nadia, the assessment was fair, and we had fun!
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Fusha 3

Course Department:
Instructor: Khetam al-Wazzan
Instruction Language: Arabic
Comments: I did learn, but there was WAY too much homework. So much that completing it took all night. I often didn't have any time to explore after school, hang out with my host family, or relax.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Gender Issues

Course Department:
Instructor: Abeer Dababneh
Instruction Language: Arabic
Comments: This class was maddeningly slow. I enjoyed talking about aspects of Jordanian personal status law, but we spent way too much time focusing on it, repeating the same ideas over and over again. I always felt babied by Professor Dababneh. She expected us not to know anything, and she substituted English words for Arabic ones in class. She's clearly very smart and very knowledgeable, so I wish she had just taught the class in English and shared all of that knowledge with us and engaged us in real conversation instead of asking us very simple questions.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Political Issues

Course Department:
Instructor: Nour Afaneh
Instruction Language: Arabic
Comments: This class just wasn't structured very well. We were often assigned long readings that we couldn't comprehend or simply didn't have the time to complete, so our in-class discussions were limited to the very few things we had gleaned from the first couple pages of those readings. Mostly, our class experience was just Ustaaza Nour asking a question, and one or two students answering it. Like a call-and-response. No real discussion among students.
Credit Transfer Issues: