Inadequate as a student of color and void of critical thinking March 06, 2020

By (Brown University) - abroad from 08/31/2019 to 12/18/2019 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury In Amman

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Was not worthwhile over all. My language skills did improve but at the expense of my mental health

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

not as rigorous as advertised; the program relies disproportionately on the language pledge to teach students and does not satisfy rigor in the curriculum, particularly in Modern Standard Arabic

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

While the on-site administration lauded the diversity of our program, the program was not diverse at all. Being told that having 6/30 POCs in the program was "wonderful" and "diverse" by an administrator was deeply harmful, especially as a woman of color. That statement reflects very poorly on Middlebury's understanding of diversity. Diversity that accepts 6/30 as diverse is a kind of diversity that services white students, not students of color. This is unacceptable. The tone deafness towards race and other markers of positionality was further revealed when students in the program had racialized experiences, and the on-site staff handled those situations very poorly. The current primarily white staff at the on-site program needs training in how to talk about gender, sexuality, and most specifically, race. Additionally, there was no facilitated or structured conversations or workshops on the implications of white and non-white students taking up space in a country that was not ours. Any conversations we did have on identity during orientation were very surface level and void of nuance. A lack conversation surrounding our intentions in being in Amman and learning Arabic or on the ramifications of our physical presence in the region encouraged a sense of entitlement throughout the program. The Middlebury program in Amman lacks critical thinking and thoughtfulness in this way. Not having these conversation is an oversight at best.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

location was not ideal but host mom (Faiza) was amazing

* Food:

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

Inadequate as a student of color and void of critical thinking

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)

Program should pay for transport to and from the University; paying the same tuition we do at our home universities should include getting to our classes.

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? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate

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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host Mom
  • speaking to locals
* What could be improved?
  • Diversity among students: 6/30 is not diverse
  • More Diversity in the staff
  • on site staff of color who are trained in have conversations about race and able to think critically about what an American presence in Amman in order to study Arabic means and what impacts it has
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How dominated the program would be by white students and staff who are tone deaf to thinking critically about themselves and their positions of power. Not once were we encouraged to think about why we were studying Arabic and what we would use those skills for in the future.