“Jordan? Isn’t That the Country Next to Syria?” by Samantha Manno
I am safe and sound in Amman, and I am currently writing in the AMIDEAST lounge. Everything is settling in nicely. This new sense of peace as I’m getting used to Amman is very welcome, as actually getting to the country was an extremely hectic experience. I flew with two friends of mine who are studying in the program with me, and pretty much everything that could have gone wrong with our flights did go wrong. After a cancelled flight to Toronto, three delays to Frankfurt, and a missed flight to Amman, I started to think that maybe this was a bad sign. However, we were lucky to have each other and made it to Amman only a couple hours later than originally expected. It felt great to have my friends by my side, and while we sat in the airport waiting to be taken to our hotel, it felt right to be there. Even though the trip to Amman was rough, I am not going to let my experience in Amman be a reflection of that.
Before I left for Amman, I was hesitant to tell people where I was studying abroad. When asked, my response was often met with surprised wide eyes. “To Jordan?” one of my track coaches exclaimed. “Isn’t that by Syria?”
It hurt to hear comments like that, and I will admit that it scared me a little. But I made sure to remind myself of why I wanted to study abroad in the MENA region in the first place; I don’t want my fear to hold me back from seeing the world and all its wonders.
For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in studying the world and the different cultures that occupy it. Language has always fascinated me and I view it as the portal to understanding different ideas, values, and people. I entered my freshman year determined to learn a new language, but I didn’t want to take a European or western language. Being American, I see that the western world influences so many things, not necessarily just international relations and politics, but media and music. I have lived my whole life within this extremely influential sphere, but it is not the only one I want to know. Chinese and Japanese appeared too daunting so I chose Arabic, a language that I knew nothing about. As you can guess, this decision changed my life.
Since I am a religious studies major, I am driven by justice and a strong sense of morality. These motivations have specifically attracted me to Jordan, and the MENA region as a whole, due to its religious history and reality and its quantity of refugees. Studying in the MENA region is so valuable to me because I get to live in a country most people know little about, or are too afraid to explore due to its representation in the Western media and the fear of the unknown.
More to come soon!