Learning to Slow Down: Adjusting to Life Abroad

Written by Terrez Deaibes, (American University) CET Jordan: Internship, Spring 2017

Beautiful flower pots along the stairs in Wast Al-Bald, downtown Amman

The differences between life in Amman compared to my daily routine in DC are not as dramatic as I had originally assumed they would be. Every day I still wake up, refuse to leave bed for twenty minutes, stumble into the shower, and begin my morning. However, I’ve noticed that life in Jordan is much more relaxed, lacking the consistent sense of urgency that fuels Washington—the need to constantly be rushing from place to place, school to work, work to library, library to anywhere with food or coffee—is almost nonexistent.

Roman ruins of Jerash

Similar to most American college students, life has been one fast blur the past three or so years, filled with 18 credit semesters as well as internships, work, and a social event here and there. Adjusting to life in Amman has been odd in that I’ve had to learn how to actually relax. This is not to assume that the schoolwork and language pledge have not kept me busy, I’ve found myself challenged and always learning. Yet, Jordanian culture has simply not adopted the long twelve hour days filled solely with work and school that occupies so much of our time back home. Jordanian culture emphasizes the importance of community, the value placed on relationships and family is higher than in our more individualistic American culture. This change in environment has encouraged my transition to a calmer state of mind – something to be grateful for when trying to communicate as much as possible in another language.

Kepsi and some delicious djaj after our second cooking class

The culture in Jordan is also incredibly hospitable and kind, I’ve found that people are more than open to creating friendships and maintaining strong relationships. I’ve been given slices of cake from shop owners and shared meals with the family of my friend’s language partner. My own language partner, Tasneem, has been kind enough to take me around Amman and introduced me to her family where I learned about the process of roasting nuts. Jordanian society is incredibly welcoming, and the emphasis on hospitality shines through in daily interactions.

Siobhan and I at the oldest building in Amman with traditional weaving

Adjusting to Jordanian culture may be difficult initially – understanding and readjusting to a role in a new society as well as realigning expectations is a hurdle—but once you finally hit your stride, albeit a slightly less frantic pace, it’s incredibly fulfilling and exciting.