Marisa Bennett - 2012 Program Participant

Marisa joined ISA in Jordan with the desire to experience Middle Eastern art and culture first hand, while she was earning her Art History degree at CU Denver. During her semester program, Marisa developed a deep affinity with the Middle East, so greatly that she plans to take up masters studies in the Gulf region in the fall of 2014. Clearly, her experiences abroad have shaped her academic career and will continue to impact her well into the future.

Marisa Participating in a Community Mural Painting Project in Salt, Jordan
Marisa Participating in a Community Mural Painting Project in Salt, Jordan.

Why did you choose ISA over other study abroad programs?

I initially found out about ISA when I stopped to talk to a representative who had their study abroad table set up in the student center on my university campus. What really was the deciding factor for me to choose ISA, however, was that fact that I was set on spending a semester in the Middle East--a destination with limited program locations to study at.

ISA offered an attractive and intensive program that would satisfy my interest in studying Arabic/Islamic arts and culture, allow me to get a strong handle on the Arabic language, and give me the opportunity to participate in exciting excursions around Jordan.

You’re from CU Denver, what advice would you give to other CU Denver students going to study abroad in Amman?

Since returning from my semester in Amman, I have worked as a study abroad peer advisor for the CU Denver Office of Global Education. From the students I have advised at CU Denver, as well as students contacting me as an alumnus of ISA Amman, I have given them similar advice: you will have an invaluably rewarding experience in Amman, Jordan if you are able to leave your "American" comfort zone behind, and go into your semester abroad with an open and flexible mind. This mentality is essential to excel within the--at times challenging--but overall amazing and welcoming culture of Jordan.

Oh yeah, and don't be afraid to use your Arabic (whatever level you are at!). The only way to truly grasp Arabic is to practice it on a daily basis with local neighbors and market vendors, ordering your food from cafes, and asking for prices and directions.

Why was Amman the best place to study abroad in Jordan?

Amman is the beating pulse of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Historically, it served as an ancient Roman city with its citadel displaying a historical timeline of Roman temple ruins, a Byzantine church, and Mosque structures. Modern day Amman boasts a vibrant culture of hookah cafes, restaurants, markets (souks), live music, archaeology and art museums, and a thriving contemporary art scene. Amman is a very welcoming destination for western students to live, study, and immerse themselves into modern Levantine culture.

What was your favorite class and why?

My favorite class was "Intercultural Development" as it was a cultural communications class that focused on assimilating American students into Middle Eastern society and culture. The class was a place to discuss and critically analyze cultural norms and differences we were observing throughout the semester. We were assigned ethnographic projects where we interviewed locals outside of class to compare and contrast the culture of the U.S. with that of Jordan, in order to gain understanding and perspective. This class significantly enhanced my time in Amman, as it allowed me to explore my own culture (Denver, CO)  from a distance, while embracing Jordanian society.

How has study abroad impacted your life?

Studying abroad has significantly impacted my life on many different levels, maybe even in ways that I am not aware of yet. First and foremost, it has opened my mind and consciousness to another way to live and see the world in a highly humbling matter. I am far more aware of foreign politics, cultural clues around me, and foreign students studying at my university, since my time studying abroad.

In addition, I have gained invaluable confidence and international perspective which has greatly supplemented my academic education at CU Denver. I also caught the travel bug - bad - from my time studying abroad. Currently, I have my sights on a masters program in Doha, Qatar.