Amal Abdi '20
Ask me about being Black abroad and taking financial aid with you!
Because I went abroad...
I learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I tend to obsessively Google and research before making even the smallest decision. I like to have control. However, that wasn’t always possible in Jordan. First of all, I was only speaking Arabic, a language I am not fluent in yet. If I wanted to take a weekend trip to another city, oftentimes the best way to find a way there was to show up the day of, ask someone for help and hope that there was actually a bus or van leaving soon. There is a robust transport system in Jordan, but you likely won’t find the schedules posted online. The more I learned about Jordanian cultural norms, the more I questioned and reflected on my own ideas of what constitutes normal. On a personal level, this semester I also learned more about myself and what I like and don’t like. I wasn’t expecting to have such a profound personal awakening. I grew emotionally and spent a lot of time listening to others. I reflected on how power informs whose voices we give authority to in politics and in academic settings.
While abroad, I settled into a routine. I still had plenty of homework, but my days were not jam-packed. I found time to be a person while still getting my work done. I will always remember how much I laughed with everyone. After a semester of drinking tea with generous amounts of sugar and eating freshly-made hummus, I feel refreshed and ready to take advantage of Harvard. I had a little bit of FOMO, but my time abroad was remarkable and has only enhanced my education.
Ask me about….
- Being on full financial aid and studying abroad
- Being Black and studying abroad
- Applying and interviewing for internships while abroad
- Language immersion
- Managing a budget
- Interacting with locals while studying abroad
- Living with a host family
- Adjusting to how things work abroad (food, bathrooms, money)
- Choosing a program
Study Abroad Highlights…
- I took a language pledge as part of my program meaning I pledged to only speak Arabic. This also meant that my classes were entirely in Arabic. While the pledge was difficult at first, my language skills rapidly improved. Not to mention, language is a powerful way to connect with people. My friends and I definitely got some amused looks from strangers but also connected with people who were wondering why a group of foreign students were loudly speaking with each other in Arabic.
- All my classes took place at the University of Jordan, which has over 35,000 students. I took an elective called Current Issues in the Middle East, and it had many field trips including to a political party that is the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm in Jordan. We also had a visit from a talented Yemeni journalist who covers the civil war in Yemen. I study Government so I was excited to learn about relevant political topics from non-Western sources. This type of cultural and intellectual exchange could not take place on Harvard’s campus.
- I loved my host family. My host mother was an artist and teacher. I spent a lot of time with my host sisters who were only a couple of years older than me. We talked about everything from politics and music to being a woman in Jordan and even boys. My host family experience was my favorite part of my time abroad.
- Every semester, the Middlebury School in Jordan has a project week where students study a specific topic in-depth. I studied tribes so I spent a week talking with Jordanian tribal leaders, cultural associations, and even interviewed a former member of parliament. Then, I wrote a paper focused on women in Jordanian politics and how tribal leaders determine the outcome of elections. This paper was entirely in Arabic and totaled over 1,000 words. I never thought I could write something that long in Arabic!