My Royal Jordanian Airlines flight had landed a couple of weeks earlier in Amman, Jordan. I was thrilled to begin the program I was enrolled in, Journey to Jordan, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth. I was so proud that I could explain what I wanted for dinner to my host mom, who only spoke Arabic. I looked at my host sister for a nod of approval, and she shook her head “You mean you want red meat?” I nodded happily. “Humra, mish hamar!” She corrected. Evidently I had asked for donkey meat, not red meat. I blushed and thanked her for her help, but knew that it was all part of the experience. The opportunity to live in a foreign country for a summer and study Arabic at the University of Jordan was a lot of fun. But it wasn’t exactly what I expected.
Studying abroad was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had. Because of the Journey to Jordan program, our group was able to go on several field trips. We stood where Laurence of Arabia once trained men, slept on soft sand under brilliant stars in Wadi Rum, toured the castles of Karak, hiked miles of the ruins of the Lost City of Petra, visited Roman Ruins, and even floated in the Dead Sea.
My group traveled to Aquba, where we were allowed to swim, boat, and even snorkel. I had never snorkeled before, so I was apprehensive about breathing and getting accustomed to the awkward fins. It was amazing! The warm water soaked over my body as I swam with schools of fish. My favorite fish was small, and it was yellow and purple with a teal stripe. I followed it for a long while until it finally led me to the colony! The beautiful fish were everywhere and I was so glad that I had tried snorkeling.
I can’t say that every attempt at going out with friends in Jordan worked out perfectly. One night, several friends and I got into a taxi and asked to go to “Jebal Jumah” but he thought we had asked to go to “Jebal Jumeah.” We didn’t even know there was a difference! We just wanted to go to a shopping area, but instead we ended up in the middle of part of the city we didn’t know. Some people might have panicked and found a taxi to return home. Instead we began walking, looking at the various buildings that surrounded us. We ended up at a huge stadium. When the man at the counter asked us if we had ever been there before, and we said no, he let us in for free! A popular Jordanian band was having a concert, but there were still some empty seats high above them. We enjoyed the concert, and knew that if we hadn’t gotten lost, we would have missed out on that experience!
Traveling changed my outlook in many ways. It expanded my perspective to help me see political issues differently. Traveling taught me patience, because if someone says they’ll be somewhere at 9 am in Jordan, they’ll most likely show up around 11, if they ever show up. Most of all though, traveling in Jordan taught me that being spontaneous isn’t scary. And adventures are not to be avoided.
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