Americans Abroad

One of the highlights of my trip so far has been the overnight stay in Aqaba I did with my roommate Tracy. She actually organized the trip and invited me to come along! We stayed in an Airbnb and took a bus to the south of the country. 

Aqaba is a coastal city on the Red Sea and has many amazing beaches. The owner of the apartment we stayed in was a really friendly man who drove us to the beach and gave us snorkel equipment. He even swam with me pretty far out, and we saw so many different kinds of fish and coral. 

The experience in the Red Sea was emotional, which I wasn’t expecting, but I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed. From the shore, we were able to see Egypt and Israel, and I was so overwhelmed that I was lucky enough to be in this position. I’m from the Midwest and I’ve never spent much time in the water, so I will never forget snorkeling in the Red Sea and exploring the environment. 

The Red Sea

Aqaba is more of an international city than Amman because of the resorts, and in our apartment there were six people and I was the only American. It made me wonder what the world’s perspective is of American people and the American government. I’ve been asking most people that I meet to describe their perspectives of the US, and the responses have surprised me a bit. I thought that Americans would seem brazen and over-the-top, but most people have said that Americans are very friendly and outgoing. From my perspective, I would describe Americans as emotionally-open when compared to Jordanians. In general, from what I’ve seen, Jordanians view emotions as very private experiences and are not to be shared in passing. Once you sit down and talk with someone, they are more than willing to laugh and smile and express themselves. 

I met a friend when I was walking around the University of Jordan one day, and we’ve met several times for lunch. I asked her if she had any views on the American government, and she was honest about how she felt. She said that she has a serious problem with America’s foreign policy and that Jordan is in desperate need of outside help. This view is one that seems to be shared by a lot of people here because they feel forgotten and demonized by both the media and the government in the US. It’s hard to disagree with them when you view the coverage of Muslims and the Middle East from an outside perspective. 

The international students in my class and my professors have expressed similar opinions of the US, but they have also been quick to say that the Jordanian government is not without its flaws. The difference as they describe seems to be that America is supposed to lead the world in human rights and social freedoms but the government routinely follows paths that contradicts this. One person I interviewed cited America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia as particularly problematic and distressing to the people here. 

Overall, I was happy to hear that American visitors to Jordan have represented the country well and that people generally have a positive opinion of American people, and I felt very honored that people trusted me enough to be honest about how they feel about the United States. 

Understanding Jordan

My trip has been flying by, and the speed has made me neglectful of posting pictures on this blog! So prepare yourselves, because an influx of pictures and updates and thoughts is coming. 

Studying abroad in Jordan has been such an amazing experience so far. I’ve been learning so much about Arabic, the culture here, and myself. I had a tough time the first week with jet lag and culture shock, but once I got over it I found myself quickly adapting to life halfway across the world. There are so many cultural details that I’ll never be able to fully or accurately describe, but I will do my best to share what I’ve experienced. 

The biggest difference that I’ve noticed between cultures has been male-female interactions. We were warned up front during orientation that platonic relationships don’t happen frequently in Jordan, and in slightly more traditional Amman, women (especially Western women) can expect some stares and some comments while walking down the street. This has happened to me quite a bit since coming here, but I keep having to remind myself that a) it’s the culture, and b) it isn’t out of malice but simply curiosity. My blonde hair stands out, and nearly every day some sweet little kid stops and points at me. I mostly find it innocuous, only now and then do I feel slightly uncomfortable. It has taught me to keep my head up, focus on myself, and not worry about what others are thinking. The vast majority of the people I’ve met have been nothing but helpful and lovely (usually because I look lost and confused while walking around). 

After orientation on my first full day here, I visited the Amman citadel, which houses Roman ruins and gives one the perfect view of the city itself.


It was beautiful and is probably one of the most visited tourist destinations in Amman. This was a great “Welcome to Jordan” moment!

For our first weekend in Jordan, Qasid set up a day trip to Ajloun castle which was a Medieval fortress. It was a beautiful day to roam around the ruins and take some pictures.

It was a great trip and the view from the top of the castle was incredible. Apparently on a clear day (which it wasn’t) you can see the Dead Sea!

It can be difficult to identify cultural problems when you are simply a guest of a foreign country because people want visitors to have the best opinion possible, but I believe that languages should be learned in their cultural contexts, meaning that I needed to understand Jordan in all its facets. Not just the shiny ones that tourists are often shown. 

I met a woman at the gym who had always been very friendly to me and spoke a little bit of English. I approached her and asked for her honest opinion of Jordanian society and any problems she sees in her daily life. It was an incredible, half-English/half-Arabic conversation, and she was very open about the culture here. She believes that one of the biggest cultural problems is that people don’t work very hard to increase their education throughout their lives. She says that reading for fun isn’t very common here and that people would benefit from trying to educate themselves on various topics. 

At a lecture I went to on the political and economical side of Jordan, the lecturer said that Jordan’s economy is in jeopardy as unemployment is high and the country has had an influx of refugees in the last few years. He also described Jordan as a “country surrounded by fire” because of the violent situations in the neighboring countries (Egypt, Palestine/Israel, Syria, etc.), and it is a miracle that Jordan is still standing. The conclusion of the lecture was that Jordan could benefit from a switch to a complete democracy, but the lecturer indicated that Jordanians and the political system itself aren’t ready for that quite yet. 

More to come, but for now مع السلامة!