“السلام عليكم” (As-salam alaykum, sometimes shortened to salam) is a common greeting in Arabic that translates to “peace be upon you.”
If you’re reading this then you probably already know me and know that I’m studying abroad for a semester in Spring 2014, but I’ll go ahead and tell you again anyway. I’ll be studying abroad in Amman, Jordan with International Studies Abroad from February 11 to June 4. I’ll be attending Al-Ahliyya Amman University, which is slightly larger than UMW (my home university).
I’ve had so many people ask me so many questions when they find out I’m going to Jordan, so I’m going to answer some of them here. Keep in mind that I don’t know everything yet as I’m not actually there, so I can’t tell you what my apartment will look like or how I’m going to obtain towels and sheets once I’m there. But trust me, I’m wondering about those things too.
What I can tell you is that I will be living in an apartment with other ISA students. It’s about 40 minutes from the university, so I’ll be taking a bus every morning. That will be interesting because it’s drastically different from what I’m used to at UMW, where I can leave 2 minutes before class and still make it on time. I’ll have an orientation for my first three days there then classes will start. My courses aren’t completely set yet, but I know I’ll be taking Arabic, courses in Middle Eastern studies, and at least one linguistics class. There are several planned excursions for study abroad students, including Aqaba, the Dead Sea, Petra, Jerash and Ajloun, Wadi Rum, and Ghor Al-Mazra’a.
The number one question I get is why I chose Jordan. The main reason I chose to go there is that I really want to continue learning Arabic (I’ve taken 3 semesters of it at UMW). Everyone always says the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it. Not only will I continue learning modern standard Arabic, but I will also have the chance to learn colloquial Jordanian Arabic. And as much as I would love to travel to Europe, I think I’ll get more out of my experience studying abroad in a country so linguistically and culturally different from my own.
In terms of cultural differences, I’ve learned a few things recently that will probably take some adjusting to.
– Forming lines is not something that happens in Jordan
– It’s common to arrive 10-15 minutes after a planned meeting time
– Speaking loudly and interrupting people is more accepted
– It’s polite to refuse offers of hospitality/generosity until offered multiple times
– Don’t criticize the king
– Don’t eat with your left hand
– People dress more modestly than in the U.S.
– Vegetarianism is rare, but supposedly there are plenty of vegetarian dishes
I’d love to keep in touch with all of you when I’m in Jordan, but realistically I’ll probably be too busy to send you weekly emails/letters/messages. But I’ll do my best to update this blog regularly so you can keep up with my travels abroad! I’m not expecting many people to read this, but thanks in advance to those who do. =)