Name: Monica Mae McEvoy
Location of Study: Amman, Jordan
Program of Study: Qasid Arabic Institute
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising senior from Minnesota studying Arabic and Anthropology. I was president of the Arabic club this past semester and will be a co-president starting in the fall. I also sing with the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir. I am very excited to return to Amman this summer to continue my study of Arabic and deepen my level of cultural understanding.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
As an Arabic major, I hope to graduate with at least Arabic proficiency, if not fluency. This is imperative because I intend to pursue a career in foreign policy or international law, and mastery of the Arabic language is crucial to attaining this goal. I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Jordan over the fall semester, and I learned so much about the culture and language. However, I know that I still have a great deal to learn, and I believe that a summer in Jordan will solidify my MSA skills and greatly improve my colloquial speaking ability. The intensive nature of Qasid’s program will help me to focus solely on Arabic and maximize my progress. Additionally, it will give me more international experience, which will benefit me in whatever career path I choose. Ultimately, an immersion language program is necessary to mastering the Arabic language, and I believe that a summer in Amman is imperative to my academic and career goals.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
As a result of this grant, I hope to make great strides towards becoming fluent in Arabic. I believe that an accredited language institution such as Qasid, coupled with an immersive language environment will enable me to progress at a rapid speed. By the end of the summer, I hope to have improved by two semesters of Arabic in all skill areas, focusing on speaking and listening. I would also like to become involved in the Amman community. One way that I will accomplish this is by teaching English classes to refugees. I also hope to strengthen my relationships that I made with Jordanians in the fall and to create new friendships. I believe that these relationships will help me to improve my language skills and to learn more about Jordanian culture.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to have a conversation with a native speaker on advanced topics such as literature, foreign policy, and economics.
2. By the end of my study at Qasid, I will have advanced one year’s worth in my listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills.
3. I will gain a sufficient social, political, and economic background concerning the Syrian conflict in order to prepare for potential future research on the subject.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study abroad in Amman this past fall semester, and I believe that my background in the city will allow me to take full advantage of all the opportunities that Amman has to offer. For example, this summer, I plan to volunteer as an English tutor at Jesuit Refugee Services. This opportunity will allow me to interact with native Arabic speakers while giving of my time and talent in a way that is representative of Notre Dame’s mission. Qasid also offers other cultural events and learning experiences aimed at applying Arabic skills outside of the classroom such as debates, speakers, and Arabic-only open mic nights. For example, I plan to meet with a language partner a few times a week. In my experience, language partners are one of the most effective ways to practice speaking and comprehension because of the relaxed, personal setting. It is also a great way to make new friends and learn more about Jordanian culture.
Additionally, because of connections that I made during my semester, I also am familiar with the local music scene in Amman. I hope to become more involved in this community during the summer.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
I am so excited to go back to Jordan! I studied there last fall, so I kind of know what to expect, but this will be a completely different experience. For example, instead of living with a host family on the edge of the city, I will be staying with two Jordanian girls closer to the center. I am really excited to get to explore a new area, but I am a little nervous because I am not very familiar with the region. I leave on Saturday the 14th and get there late on Sunday. Orientation is early the next morning, so hopefully everything goes well! I’ve been reviewing a little Arabic in the past few weeks, but it has been quite a while since I used any colloquial Arabic. Inshahallah I will not be too rusty when I get there. Regardless, the Qasid program is excellent, so I am sure that it will not be long before I become accustomed to speaking Arabic. I will try to update this blog as frequently as possible, but I expect that this will depend largely on the quality of my internet connection… Ma salaama!!
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
After various dilemmas and almost two days of travel, I finally arrived in Amman! I didn’t get to my apartment until almost 3 am because of flight delays and luggage trouble. I felt so bad because my roommate waited up for me! This morning I was so tired that I completely slept through my alarm, so I was a few minutes late for orientation. However, it was fine, especially since I have been to Jordan before and the basic orientation was essentially an overview of what I already know. (Don’t sit in the front of a taxi, keep small change with you, etc). I met a couple people from the program, and they were really nice. I also practiced Arabic with a girl from Turkey in order to prepare for our oral exam in the afternoon. We were both struggling a little bit, but I think it helped. My oral exam went fairly well considering how tired and nervous I was. I believe that I will be placed in the appropriate level. After my interview, I managed to get a taxi and find my way back to my apartment. I was very excited about this until I couldn’t unlock the front door! However, after about 15 minutes and various strategies, I managed to get inside. Both the doors to the building and to the apartment have proved to be troublesome, but I expect that I will get better at opening them with time.
After that little debacle, I went to get a Jordanian phone and internet at a little store around the corner. The entire process took about 10 minutes, so that was easy. I was really grateful that the store was air-conditioned. It isn’t even that hot yet, (about 88 F) but I already feel like I’m overheating half the time!
After I took a nap, I went to a café to watch the world cup with my friend Terrence from fall semester, which was really fun. Jordanians are really into soccer, so the atmosphere was great. The whole café was literally overflowing with people wearing memorabilia, shaking sound-makers, and waving flags, all for a Germany versus Portugal game. Unfortunately, I had to leave early so I could be at home when my luggage was dropped off. They were supposed to be here at 9:30, but it is after 11:00 and it has not arrived yet… However, this delay has given me some time to write about Jordan!
I will be traveling to Jerash on Wednesday with Qasid and am visiting, Madaba, Mount Nebo, and the baptism site with my friend Terrence and his coworkers on Friday. Looks like I already have a busy week ahead of me!
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
June 28th: On Thursday (26th) we had a day off of school, so I went to Wadi Mujib and the Dead Sea with some friends from Qasid. Wadi Mujib was so much fun! Basically it is a hike through a canyon filled with water. Since it is summer, the water is lower than usual (only up to my knees usually) but it was still beautiful and refreshing on a hot day! We didn’t pay for a guide, but an employee found out it was our first time, so he went with us anyway. This was nice because he helped us find easier ways through the tough spots and told us about things we might not otherwise have noticed, such as places where you can pass through a waterfall to a little cave. I also really liked that he didn’t speak English, so it enabled me to practice my Arabic with a native speaker. After Wadi Mujib, we dried off and made our way to the Dead Sea. We went to a beautiful resort with a beach and pool. The salt in the Dead Sea stung a lot because of all the little cuts we got at Wadi Mujib! That was a pretty painful, but it was still fun to float effortlessly in the water and relax. Of course, we also covered ourselves in mud to get the whole Dead Sea experience. I’m not really sure if the mud made my skin feel much different, but it was still funny to see everyone covered in mud. Inshallah there will be many more adventurous days in the near future!
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
Qasid Classes: My classes have been going very well so far. I was placed in 4C, and I think it is the perfect level. I am definitely being challenged, but it is not so difficult that I cannot understand anything. The class size has been fluctuating over the past couple of weeks as people switch levels, but there is a core group of us that has stayed the same. I really like that Qasid classes focus a lot on discussion, as speaking is one of the areas in which I struggle the most. Sometimes if we are talking about a complex topic, I am forced to word something in a roundabout way, but it is good practice to learn how to get your point across with a limited vocabulary. The Modern Standard Arabic Skills/Issues class is my favorite because of the teacher, Sarrah. She is strict, but in a fun way. Her teaching style also keeps us very engaged throughout the long class period. The media class is also good. The subject matter is very interesting and sometimes Arwa has us do fun activities. For example, last week we dressed up and acted out a scene pretending to be ISIS leaders and their supporters/opposers. We also do short presentations that help me to improve my speaking skills. My only complaint is that the homework load is quite heavy, but I am here to learn so I don’t mind it too much!
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
Ramadan: I have been fasting for Ramadan so far because I think it is part of experiencing Jordan, as roughly 94% of the population is Muslim. In fact, it is against the law to eat or drink in public during Ramadan (from around 4 am to 7:50 pm in Amman). Also, my roommates and a majority of my friends here are Muslim, so I wouldn’t want to eat or drink in front of them while they are fasting anyway. From what I have learned from my Muslim friends, Ramadan is a month of fasting, from food and drink especially, but in other areas of your life as well. Your whole being is fasting. For example, you should refrain from gossiping and even thinking badly about another person. Some people even go so far as to fast from music for the month of Ramadan. It is also a time where people tend to donate a lot of money and other services to charity. The fasting helps to remind you about other needy people in the world who do not have access to basic necessities and also helps you to focus on your spiritual life.
Family is very important in Jordan throughout they year, but it is especially noticeable during Ramadan. Iftar, the meal in which you break your fast, is a time for friends and family to gather and spend time with each other. In the first few weeks of Ramadan, I have been to iftar meals with many different groups of people, and they all have made me feel so at home here. The meal often lingers into tea and coffee, sometimes even lasting close to suhoor (the small meal in the early morning before the sunrise. For example, I went over to my Syrian friend Nouran’s house after Iftar last night, and they kept feeding me tea and sweets until I thought I might explode! (I told them this in Arabic, and they thought it was very funny). But that is Arab hospitality for you. Everyone is sooo nice here and they all go out of their way to make you feel welcome. I am looking forward to many more nights of enjoying (and providing, inshallah) hospitality during this holy month.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future: