Alumni Spotlight: Emma Russell

Emma Russell is from Omaha, Nebraska and is currently a senior at the George Washington University. She is studying International Affairs and studied abroad in Amman, Jordan during her junior year of college.

Why did you choose this program?

I am learning Arabic and studying International Affairs with a concentration in Middle East Studies. I knew my Arabic skills would improve in Jordan where Arabic is being spoken. The program also had the opportunity to stay with a host family, which I decided to do. That was also an amazing opportunity and experience to improve my Arabic and intercultural communication skills. I learned so much!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The program provider assisted me with everything I needed! They helped me get set up with a host family, find an internship, and sign up for classes. They also had trips planned for program participants where we saw and learned a lot. There were activities almost every day which we can attend for free and often included food. I organized personal travel on my own, but they were open to talk if I needed assistance.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

One piece of advice would be to not be scared or worried about cultural differences. Go into the experience with an open mind! At times, some people found themselves disappointed/critical of the environment, which I can understand, but if you go into it with an open mind and are more open to differences, you will have a much more positive experience and learn a lot more. Also, I would suggest doing a home stay to be as immersed and get as much from the experience as possible.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Go to class every morning, and have a night class once or twice a week. Otherwise, you have free time. If you do an internship, then you would go there after your morning class. If you don't have an internship though, the program offers many cool opportunities in the form of relevant and diverse speakers at the center that you can sign up to attend.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was that I would be unhappy or that it would be difficult or inconvenient to change my habits so I can stay safe in Jordan. I overcame it by having an open mind. I did not feel unsafe, and I just had to be smart and alert as I have to be in the United States. I was not unhappy, and just because it was different in some ways didn't mean that it was worse. In many ways, I found certain things better there than in the United States.

Did you travel outside of Amman, Jordan?

Yes, I traveled a lot outside of Jordan, and I would suggest to not limit yourself in that respect. You can travel throughout the Middle East and stay safe. Ignore stereotypes that certain places aren't safe to travel to – again, as long as you're staying smart and aware at all times. You will learn so much and have the trip of a lifetime.