The Jordanian health care system, holding your tongue and staying positive Past Review

By (Political Science And Environmental Studies, Wellesley College) - abroad from 01/27/2014 to 05/11/2014 with

SIT Study Abroad: Jordan - Refugees, Health, and Humanitarian Action

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I became a much more resilient and patient person because of my time abroad, and I had an amazing group with me, with whom I bonded incredibly. Much of our bonding occurred because we were quite unhappy with how our program was being run and were put in many uncomfortable/slightly rude/offensive social situations because of our AD, and together we became a very tightly-knit cohort. I really try to not live with regrets, and so I wouldn't wish to have not had this experience, but it was made incredibly challenging by the AD/administration of the SIT program, and also because of the physical environment of Amman--which I wish I had researched more about before choosing to go to Jordan, and I would seriously recommend to anyone before choosing one's study abroad location. The redeeming qualities of this program--the friends I made; all that I learned about myself through the incredibly difficult, sometimes miserable, time that I had; and the numerous experiences around the country and in Turkey we had as a group--make me not regret this. However, my experience with this SIT program makes me seriously consider as to whether I would choose another SIT program if I were to study abroad again . . . And a lot of that has to do with the current AD. If she were removed, I might recommend this program to someone else, but I would not recommend it with her in power.

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.

This program was not academically rigorous, and I do not feel like the tuition matched the cost, especially for the Arabic class; Research Methods and Ethics (RME); and Health, Environment and Community Development (HECD). The Health Systems and Policy course was focused on by our Academic Director (AD) because it was the area of interest she shares, and so she chose to focus on it. As such, essentially our entire program was about this course, which took away from the other classes . . . but because of all of the field visits we did, I felt the tuition cost for this one class was worth it. Overall, this program was not rigorous though, as our AD didn't enforce deadlines and about half of our assignments were dropped from the curriculum. I would attribute a lot of the lack of intensity to our AD's seeming lack of experience in academia; she should have someone else actually teaching the classes, as the few classes she taught were pretty horrendous – one RME class she *literally* read every single box of a grading rubric for our ISPs. She additionally is not a good facilitator of discussion, and takes any point with which she disagrees as an opportunity to express her own opinions.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our AD was elitist and classist, racially insensitive, and had many offensive and inappropriate comments, including disclosure of a lot of financial details with students. In the case of two students who were having host family issues (for reasons of race and neglect) she disclosed inappropriate information about SIT's financial situation in an attempt to convince them to not move. As a cohort of students we felt that our AD had the best interest of her own acquisition of contacts/networking as her priority, rather than academia at heart. We felt that she did, genuinely, care about us and appreciate us as her "students", but saw her position as a business-woman rather than an academic, and it was clear that she wanted to have the power/control over all of our aspects of life – housing, emotional support, grades for every class (including the ones she did not teach), schedule, etc. I had a wonderful experience with the other SIT members who assisted with on-site administration – Rima, Dema, Ahmed, and Rania were all wonderfully welcome and open resources for us, and had no qualms about offering advice or assistance on any issue.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was great!

* Food:

My host family was wonderful in accommodating my diet (vegetarian).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We hardly met/integrated with other university students, which was a big disappointment and could have contributed greatly to our overall experience.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I went to the hospital once, and it was an easy/relaxed experience.

* Safety:

There is an incredible amount of sexual harassment, including (isolated but significant) issues in taxis/with taxi drivers. Definitely be cautious wherever you are, travel with male friends if venturing into older parts of the city, and heed the advice of the SIT workers.

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


* 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)

The stipend helped A LOT – however I know there were many sentiments of unfair allocation, for students whose host family placements were far out of the city and who received the same amount, or who had to pay for their own wifi connection. Definitely something that SIT should consider, and a graded system of stipend money should be discussed.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 30 JD-50 JD


* 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

My Arabic teachers (with whom I met only 1-3 times/week, because of our AD's disinterest in emphasizing the Arabic class) definitely advocated for speaking Arabic. To quote our AD when she was trying to defend the allocation of class time to a student at the end of the semester, "This was not the time to come and learn Arabic." I was incredibly disappointed by the amount of Arabic that I didn't learn, and I think the Arabic component of this program needs to be completely restructured, or else not advertised as an actual class, as the number of hours I spent in Arabic class can hardly constitute making up an actual class. My host family was also very good about encouraging me 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? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate Arabic/202 (through second semester of second year)
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 possible, befriend Jordanians!

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?
  • My fellow students
  • Contextualizing the situation in the Middle East
  • Frequent field visits for our HP class
* What could be improved?
  • The AD should be removed
  • The Arabic program should be restructured
  • RME should be restructure/given a legitimate curriculum
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? 1) Arabic was not a significant component of the program. 2) The AD is a classist, elitist, narcissistic, business-like snob, with arbitrary and un-transparent grading practices and decision-making processes. (I know this sounds harsh, but the vast majority of students felt the same. Also, I was completely happy/satisfied with my grades, but still speak on behalf of myself and several students in my cohort when I say she had arbitrary/un-transparent grading practices.) 3) Jordan is an incredibly difficult environment in which to live, particularly for women, people who appreciate their independence, and people who like to spend their time outdoors or being physically active.

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.