Grayce McGregor - 2014 Program Participant
Riding camels in Wadi Rum
What inspired you to study abroad?
I got bitten by the travel bug during an exchange year in high school, so I knew in college that I'd study abroad again.
Why did you choose AMIDEAST?
As a Middle Eastern studies and international relations double major, I wanted a program that would combine the political aspects of the Middle East with the cultural aspects.
What was your favorite part about Amman?
Everything about Amman is amazing. I originally chose Jordan because I wanted to learn the Levantine dialect of Arabic (dialect should definitely be a consideration for those of you looking to study Arabic abroad). I found in Jordan that the people are hospitable, the scenery is beautiful, and it's a whole different experience than anything that could be found in the United States.
Why did you decide to study Arabic abroad?
I've always been interested in languages. I started in elementary school with a Spanish program, and ended up taking at least a semester of every language formally offered at my school district. I became interested in languages with different alphabets when I took Chinese, and I ended up branching out to Russian and Arabic because of my recent political interest.
Of all the foreign languages to pursue, Arabic is often seen as one of the most difficult, what tips do you have for those studying Arabic?
Practice as much as possible. One thing I regret from my time abroad is that I didn't put enough of an effort to speak Arabic. I usually tried with native Jordanians, but it's more about limiting your English. Just because you don't know the specific word you're looking for doesn't mean you can't get around it, and that's a big part of learning a language. How are you supposed to know what vocabulary you need if you don't use the vocabulary you know?
What made your program extraordinary?
They do everything they can do immerse you in the culture, while still emphasizing the educational aspect of study abroad. The courses weren't so demanding that you couldn't have a life, but I do feel like I learned things in each one of my classes. They also had excursions and cultural workshops so we could see every side of Jordan.
What was a typical day like for you in Jordan?
We started the day with Modern Standard Arabic, then did Jordanian Colloquial. We had about an hour or so for lunch, which we either brought from our host families or went to the nearest falafel joint. After that, depending on the day, we either had an elective course or the afternoon off. Usually my friends and I would go to a cafe and do homework or explore the city with our afternoons off. In the evening, we would sometimes go home for dinner and sometimes get dinner together. Most nights I was home before 10 p.m., later on the weekends.
What was your favorite part of the program outside of the regular coursework?
I took Oud lessons, which were always a lot of fun. I had a great teacher and I was able to play a few songs by the end of the semester.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like most about it?
I lived in a host family with a roommate. I loved living with my host family. At times I felt bad because they would wait for us to get home every night before going to bed, but they were just looking out for us which was really nice. They would help us with Arabic and we sat on the porch while the weather was still nice and chatted in Arabic.
Hanging out with new friends
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
I didn't have many problems during the program. I had to go to the doctor once, which was a good experience overall (other than being sick). I know I had several friends who had host family problems or roommate problems which were taken care of.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have spent more time speaking and studying Arabic. I love the language and I feel my abilities aren't as good as I'd like them to be.
How much has your time in Jordan impacted your life?
In so many ways. I think the most it has impacted me is that I try to do more for other people. There are a lot of people in Jordan who are poor, but they give what they can anyway. They want you to feel at home and welcome to be yourself, and it was a really refreshing change of pace.
One of my final strolls in my host neighborhood.
Would you recommend your program to other students?
Absolutely. Study abroad is a life-changing experience and I believe that everyone should try their hand at creating a home away from home. There are countless great programs for studying abroad, but for someone interested in studying in the Middle East, AMIDEAST is definitely one of the best options. They have a huge network and they really do try to provide the best possible accommodations for students.
My high school program was Rotary Youth Exchange, and it was spectacular. I think the highlight about that program is that you don't get to pick where you go. I ended up alone in a small town in Finland, which wasn't really on my radar at all. I may have had some low moments, but Rotary knows how to teach students how to be independent. Somehow, while temperature-wise it was the coldest winter I've experienced, I learned a lot about the warmth of family, community, and of course, saunas.
If you could study abroad again, where would you go?
If I had the choice of anywhere, I would go as many places as I could. I'd love to do some kind of cross continental trip. On the other hand, I love the feeling of going to a place that's very foreign and making it home. I don't know exactly which country I'd pick. I would love to go back to the Middle East and improve my Arabic, but the political instability in most of those countries prevent me from doing that. If that weren't a factor, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Palestine would be on my radar as well as a return to Jordan. I'm also interested in Nepal. I'd love to do studies in places like Tibet or Chechnya on the living conditions of one nation under another. The short answer? I'd go everywhere.