Written by Sarah Holston (American University), Student Correspondent for CET Jordan, Spring 2023
As I start my third week in Jordan, there’s one phrase that I’ve heard again and again at restaurants and conversations, but only understood it when my professor covered it in class كل شيء تمام (Everything’s fine). I say it when someone asks me how I am and as a joke when everything is not fine but I’m having fun anyways.
Since landing in Amman each week feels like a lifetime with the amount of new people, adventures, words, and cultural cues I’ve needed to understand. Not only am I navigating a new city; I’m doing it in a second language that I’m still learning to be more comfortable with. Despite broken Arabic, adjustments to schedules, and the distance from home; the other students and I are finding our place in Amman and CET Jordan.
Exploring Rainbow Street, one of Amman’s hubs for restaurants, shops and tourism
Exploring Amman, Jordan
The first few days, we were able to explore the city and went on trips with CET along side the orientation sessions. We used a scavenger hunt to find our way around the area CET is in (Swefieh) and noted important places like the pharmacy, electronics shop, and café. One restaurant I loved was [email protected], we saw the cutest cat there and they offer a large English-language selection.
After dinner, we walked to the Roman Amphitheater, it’s one of the most popular sites in Jordan and despite us being there at night we could walk around the plaza and take pictures from below. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to just walk around with friends. There are so many hidden gems and artwork in the streets that you can’t find on google maps. It will also quickly teach you important skills for living in Amman like crossing the street (harder than you’d think).
The most adorable stray cat at [email protected]
Dinner with CET staff at a Jordanian restaurant
Academics in Amman, Jordan
Life in Amman is busy, we have office hours, and four hours of classes, collaborative homework, and actives at the Jordanian neighbor’s apartments or around the city. Our first week of class was all in Jordanian dialect (Amia) but now we have three hours of modern standard Arabic and only one hour of dialect. I’d recommend bringing a good set of pens, highlighters, and some notebooks to Jordan as notes and homework are expected to be handwritten. I’m in the intermediate class where we’re covering ways to make more advanced sentence structure and connect ideas. Then we apply what we’ve learned to conversations around the city.
One of the things I’ve found difficult is time management. There’s so much I want to do and when almost everything I do, even cooking, is different than I’m used to it’s an added pressure. I’m careful to give myself enough quiet time to get work done and do my quieter hobbies like reading, so I’m ready for bigger trips as they come up.
Jordanian Neighbors and Language Partners
I can’t talk about my experience in Amman without talking about the Jordanian Neighbors and language partners. The Jordanian neighbors live in the same building and host activity nights/outings. You can text and ask them to help finish a homework assignment which may turn into an incredible 3 hour conversation about history and social media. I would highly encourage any student going into CET to try to talk to them regularly.
Besides being incredibly sweet, they’ve also helped me feel more comfortable expressing myself in Arabic and being confident around Amman. My language partner is amazing, we meet every week for 3 hours and can do work or explore Jordan. This week we met up for lunch with other students and language partners to play hand and then they showed us around the University of Jordan.
Ruins at Amman Citadel, a group trip with the Jordanian neighbors
Weather and Transportation
One of the biggest surprises about Amman was the weather. It’s around 40-60 degrees this time of year and I’m glad I was warned ahead of traveling, because I’ve been wearing exclusively fall/early spring clothes. Also, good walking shoes are a must. Amman is very hilly and most of the time walking is needed to get to anywhere you may want to go. Uber is reliable and great to start but once you’re more comfortable with the area, a taxi is cheaper. I’d also recommend bringing cash or exchanging early on, it’s easier to track your money and will be excepted wherever you.
A view of the one of the theaters at Jerash
Trips Around Jordan
Lastly, look at the cities around Jordan to see of there’s any weekend trips you may want to plan. Salt and Ajloun are both beautiful with great views while Jerash has the most amazing Roman ruins. I took a day trip to these three cities, which was definitely very packed, and I’ll likely go see each of them separately at another point in the semester. Jerash was a must-see for me because I love history and we spent almost 4 hours there alone. In-between stops we were singing songs in Arabic (very poorly), and debriefing about our favorites moments of the trip. It was beautiful watching the day go by as green hills surrounded us and we went high into the mountains.
The view from Ajloun Castle, a 12th-centry Muslim castle, that overlooks Mount Ajloun district
This is not an easy program, but everyone wants to see you succeed. Arabic is very humbling, and the mistakes make me a better a student. كل شيء تمام (Everything’s fine) and I’m excited for whatever’s next.