Josiah Mosqueda had long harbored an interest in studying in an Arab country. A middle eastern studies concentrator with an interest in learning Arabic who had never studied abroad before, he took the leap his junior year, doing not one but two programs in Jordan. He spent Fall Semester on the ACM-Amideast Middle East and Arabic Studies program, came home for a week, the returned to Amman for Religion and Politics in Jordan, a St. Olaf trip led by Professors Ibtesam Al-Atiyat and Jamie Schillinger. It was a revolutionary experience for him. “The Arab World is in the middle of redefining what it means to be an Arab. What a time to study and live in an Arab country!” he says.
While being abroad for the first time was hard, he said, particularly because of the time difference, that week at home helped and “my Jordanian friends really helped me and genuinely cared for me.” Now, he misses Jordan and his host family “every day”. He particularly bonded with his host sister, 2 year old Nuf, who in his words, is “adorable, but has the mouth of a sailor” and “said some very bad words to me in Arabic the first time I met her.”
As for culture shock, he dealt with it by making sure to spend time talking to the other Americans on the program, going out together and talking about their experiences. He was initially very worried, as a homosexual Pagan, that he would experience hardships, but his friends and host family were welcoming and supportive. His experience as a So/An major served him in this area as well. “Looking at culture and social constructions of gender, race, and class really helped me understand how Jordanians live, and how differences in culture are not a bad thing – rather, it is a great point of mutual growth, understanding, and sharing of passion.” Before going, he took various classes on the Arab World and Islam and read plenty of literature from the region. The ACM program also helped the students prepare for what they could experience while abroad.
Now, back in Minnesota, he misses his host family, and the smaller things like hearing the Adhan (call to prayer) every day. But he knows he can go back, and recognizes how much he has grown from a program. He says that he left a chaotic life behind when he went to Jordan, and getting away from it all, taking time to focus on himself and his interests “changed me for the better.” Plus, he really appreciates having continual internet access and the ability to contact his family at any time.
He just has one piece of advice for people planning on traveling on similar programs – pack Western medicine if you plan on using it. “Never underestimate the need for packing medicine-make sure there’s room!”
If you’re interested in Jordan, either of these programs, or Josiah’s experiences, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org