May's Blog

My adventures in Amman Spring 2013

A Look Back

It’s 2014, and almost a year ago I was terrified to travel to the Middle East. I was the only person from my school to travel to Jordan that semester, and the one of five people to travel to the Middle East. I had the support of family and friends, and the wonderful support of the Gilman Scholarship, but at the end of the day I was simply nervous to study abroad in a new country for what seemed a very long time. I was so caught up worrying about my trip – from the fact that Jordan was one of my only options for study abroad in the Middle East to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to see my best friends for at least four months – that I didn’t get excited about my trip until I was well into my layover at Vienna.

I was bombarded with questions about the Middle East as soon as I got back. The question comes up much less often now, but it inevitably surfaces if people learn I studied abroad in the Middle East. My short answer? My time in Jordan wasn’t easy. Four months is a long time to study abroad. I had to wear modest clothing, struggled with the language, and faced problems like verbal harassment. Despite the challenges, I am so happy I decided to study abroad in Amman. During my time abroad I made amazing friends, rode camels in the desert, swam in Turkish hot springs, took classes taught by a Jordanian diplomat, saw the Jordanian Gendarmerie scale walls, went on trips every weekend, and spent the equivalent of 75 cents on lunch every day. It was an adventure, and it was completely worth it.

Here’s a short list of some of the most important things I took away from my trip and some of my favorite pictures. To start, the language barrier was tough but it forced me to learn Jordanian Arabic. I didn’t have a strong background in Middle East history or politics before my trip, but the hours I reading, studying, and listening in class gave me a broad view of the complex nature of the Middle East. I gained valuable international work experience working at USAID. I became a feminist. I became more sure of myself and my future career. I usually get a few confused looks when I tell people I want to pursue a career in diplomacy or international development, but for the first time in my life I was surrounded by people who were equally if not more interested in the same things I’m interested in. I met some of the most passionate, interesting people I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering abroad, and I’m proud to call some of them my friends. Studying abroad confirmed my decision to intern at the State Department, and I even ended up interning and living in D.C. with one of my study abroad friends the summer after Jordan. I am so happy I decided to study abroad in Jordan and I can’t wait for my next adventure. 

I didn’t take a lot of photos in my last few weeks in Amman. I suppose I was too busy taking finals and packing up the mountain of souvenirs and trinkets I acquired in the course of two months. My advice to all you fellow travelers: leave room for presents. Even the guys. Some of my friends bought hookahs and had trouble bringing them back. These are some of my last photos in Amman. It was my friend Adam’s birthday.

We couldn’t visit Israel without a quick trip to Palestine, so we decided to head to Ramallah. It was a drastic change from the beautiful city of Jerusalem, and reminded me of dusty Amman. It seemed small from what we saw of it. My favorite parts of Palestine were visiting Taybeh Brewery, a place that proudly boasts of having the only female brewer in the Middle East, and the food. The food was amazing, and spicier than expected in a good way. The people we met were very friendly, and smiled a lot.

Israel

It was very weird to visit Israel after spending so much time in Jordan. I almost wished that I could have traveled to Israel before and after my time in Jordan so that I could see if my attitudes toward it changed. All I can really say is that I dreaded my Israel trip for reasons I can’t quite explain, but it turned out to be a really wonderful trip. The city was remarkably clean compared to Amman and I had froyo for the first time in months. (There’s Pinkberry in Amman too, but I refused to spend 7 Jds on froyo). The wide streets and reminded me of walking through Turkey. The way everyone spoke English reminded me of home, although more I noticed that were more English signs in Jordan than in Israel. Most signs were written in Israeli, perhaps a sign of their nationalism. I also saw quite a few shirts that said essentially that Israel has the US’s back. I found the street vendors to be a little racist when they called my diverse group of friends several names like “China,” “Mexican,” and my personal favorite “Mormon” when we walked through Old City. Like the rest of my trips, I experienced catcalls and crude language. I like to focus on the positive though, and am really glad I got the chance to places like the Old City and the Dome of the Rock firsthand. We had some really delicious food, like cauliflower hummus. I won’t forget laying on a beach in Tel Aviv my last day in Israel, wondering if I will ever return.

Old City and Church of the Holy Sepulcher

We had a break right before finals, and we decided to take a few days and finally visit Israel. First stop, Dome of the Rock.

Lemon mint: my favorite study companion

Lemon mint: my favorite study companion

Losing our way and finding fish sandwiches in Istanbul

The day I got food poisoning, watched hot air balloons rise right after sunset, and met this cat

Taking Cappadocia (aka the land of beautiful horses) by storm