This summer I had the opportunity to work in Amman, Jordan in a carpentry country called Holy Land Designs. I am a junior at the University of Arkansas majoring in International Business and minoring in the Arabic language. That being said, you can see that an opportunity to study in Jordan in the marketing department of a company that focuses on hand-making high quality olive wood products and working with Arabs is a fantastic summer opportunity. The average Jordanian that worked in this company consisted of men and women who were low-socioeconomic class and often times, these individuals had a disability as well.
This was a great contrast to the Arabic I learned at the University of Arkansas. My Arabic courses at Arkansas are focused almost entirely on formal and written Arabic. While this is very important to understanding the culture and being able to succeed in an academic setting, it is not used in everyday conversation. Using formal Arabic in an everyday conversation would be the equivalent of someone using Shakespearean English in normal conversations here in the U.S. This being said, spoken Arabic is a completely new language in many ways and it was difficult at first to adjust to comprehension and it’s functioning. After my time in Amman this summer, it has been incredible to come back and be able to communicate with my Arab friends here in Fayetteville with what I learned in Amman. I have never been more excited to continue to learn this language!
I also had a unique social experience. I was living alone in Amman and was adopted into a group of Jordan medical students at the University of Jordan. These students invited me to every day activities like soccer, paintball, late night cards at cafes to name a couple of the activities. This was extremely helpful for my Arabic. It also made it easier to fall in love with the local culture from an insider’s point-of-view rather than a tourist’s. I was able to visit the Ancient Roman cities of Um Qayys, Jerash and Aqaba. I had the experience of camping in the southern Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum and snorkeling in the Red Sea among beautiful coral reefs. I cannot express my love for Jordanian culture, but I can tell you that I am anxiously waiting the next time that I am there.