W illiam Ackerman, a 21-year-old CU international affairs and political science major, has been studying in Amman, Jordan for the last three months. With three weeks left in his program, I was able to chat with him about his experiences in the Middle East.
What program are you doing?
I am currently doing SIT: Jordan, Modernization and Social Change. The program focuses on thematic seminars of prominent issues in Jordan and throughout the region, such as international security, economics, religion, and specific issues like women’s rights and water scarcity.
What is your favorite thing about Jordan?
My favorite thing about Jordan is its people and culture. Jordanians are very nice and hospitable, and will stop what they are doing to help you out if you need it.
What is the environment like in Amman?
Amman is a pretty bustling city at all hours, so it’s pretty noisy and congested. The first couple weeks I had the muezzin (prayer caller) wake me up every morning at 4:30 a.m., but I eventually got used to it. The countryside is much more quiet and peaceful, especially to the south of Jordan in the Badia.
How is your program different from CU?
I’m studying with a small program that utilizes surrounding institutions and universities for expertise and academics. I go to a program building every day, and we have guest lecturers and professionals who talk to us about relevant issues.
What do you and your friends do for fun?
Me and my friends usually go to a place called Shariah Rainbow (Rainbow Street), which is pretty much the foreign quarter of Amman to relax and hang out. Other times we go to central Amman, where there is a huge Sooq (market) where you can explore for hours and find anything you need at cheap prices.
Where have you traveled outside of Jordan?
Outside of Jordan I have been to Egypt and Lebanon. I had the opportunity to be in Tahrir Square during a protest and talked with some college students from Cairo about the revolutions.
Did you have much experience with Arabic before going to Jordan?
I had studied Arabic for two years before I came to Jordan, so it was a little easier for me to speak the language. However, there is a huge difference between Fusha (Modern Standard Arabic) and Aamia (common Arabic), which is spoken in different regions. I had the opportunity to learn Jordanian Aamia in my program.
What are some cultural differences you’ve experienced?
The main cultural difference has been the prevalence of Islamic culture throughout Jordanian society and other countries I’ve been to. Contrary to popular belief, women don’t have to veil here, but you do have to dress modestly whether you are a man or woman. This means long pants and no tank tops — that sort of thing. Talking to people is different too. You always have to begin and end conversations politely with traditional greetings and farewells like salaam alaikum (peace be upon you) and Allah yateek al-aafia (God give you health).
Jessica Ryan is a junior media studies major at CU-Boulder. She writes about study abroad experiences once a week for the Colorado Daily. On Twitter: @JessicaLRyan.