Written by Caitlyn Aldersea, (University of Denver), Student Correspondent for CET Jordan, Fall 2021
Jordanians are always eager to help. On the first CET orientation day, our logistics director Ahmad made this claim so nonchalantly that many of us brushed it off with a laugh and eyeroll. It’s the kind of statement every person claims about their city, but as I have come to realize during my first few weeks in Jordan, Ahmad is right – everyone does want to help.
The CET Jordan program holds a reputation as being an intensive language experience. The language pledge mixed with an Arabic language partner, rigorous courses, office hours, an internship (if you choose), and generally living in a whole new culture while interacting with new people, places, and mannerisms can be a lot. Like many students, I was worried. Who would I go to if I needed help academically? What happens if something goes awry? Who can I talk to if I need a good food recommendation or coffee shop suggestion or weekend activity?
These worries, while understandable, have been quickly subdued in my first few weeks at the CET Jordan Program. I knew I was in the right place and had the support I needed on the first night here. A group of us, still jetlagged and eyes heavy with sleep, went out looking for a bite to eat. Our Arabic was rusty and knowledge of Jordanian food was extremely limited, so we had no clue what we were doing. The waiter, sensing confusion, quickly helped us. Communicating in a mix of Arabic, English, and hand gestures, he pointed out his favorites including traditional Jordanian dishes while also helping us practice our pronunciation and giving us insights on the surrounding Seventh Circle neighborhood. Walking back to the apartments that night, I felt like I was in a dream; likely because I was so jetlagged, but also because I was slightly surprised – I was not expecting such helpfulness towards a bunch of tired American students who barely said an inkling of Arabic. Luckily, that evening was not a one-off experience.
The barista at my favorite coffee shop, Base Coffee, gave me pointers the other day on how to order completely in Arabic. A friend of a friend invited me to dinner so his wife can teach me how to make mansef (the national dish). A distant family friend introduced me to a former work colleague who not only showed me around downtown so I could better understand Jordanian market culture, but also fulfilled my Anthony Bourdain dreams of eating at the most hole-in-the-wall restaurant I could imagine. Upon learning of my desire to play soccer while here, I was subsequently invited to play on their co-ed soccer team every week. My internship supervisor gave me directions for a faster route back to my apartment, so I have a few extra minutes to relax before homework. My language partner has offered to teach me Arabic dances at her house. Our housing director, Mazen, has dealt with our apartment’s mishaps more times than I can count. And the professors always close out class with a reminder that they are available via WhatsApp should we need anything.
My language partner has been immensely helpful not just with my Arabic immersion but also showing me the tried-and-true Jordanian culture hubs.
Even with these examples of helpfulness in Jordan, this still does not capture how every person you will meet here wants to make sure you are cared for. People know people who know people. Yes, study abroad is a massive cultural and academic shock. But know that Amman is full of people who are rooting for you to succeed. So, moral of the story: regardless of whether you think you want help or not, people will always have your back in Amman.