Alumni Spotlight: Samira Abunemeh


Samira Abunemeh is a 22 year old student from Mississippi. She studies at the University of Mississippi where she majors in international studies and minors in Arabic. She studied abroad with the CET Intensive Arabic Language program in Irbid, Jordan.

Why did you decide to study abroad with CET?

Samira: Study abroad is mandatory for my major, so I knew since my freshman year that I would have to study for a semester abroad at some point during my undergraduate. I discovered CET at a study abroad fair at my university and saw that they had a program in Jordan for students taking Arabic.

Jordan had been my primary choice for where I wanted to study abroad because I have been studying Arabic since freshman year and I have family in the country. What convinced me to study with CET was the program's dedication to language. Despite studying Arabic for three years, my language skills were poor, so my primary goal for my semester abroad was to improve my language skills. With the CET program's language pledge, Arab roommates, and location away from the capital of Amman, I believed that I could excel in Arabic after studying with this program.

What was the best place you visited outside of your study abroad city?

Samira: In the south of Jordan, there is a desert called Wadi Rum. It is a vast space of red sand and mountains where the weather is tolerable no matter if you visited in the summer or the fall. I visited the place twice with the CET program, and both times I was amazed by the place's beauty. I felt as if I was on another planet.

The night sky was so clear that I saw the Milky Way and every star possible. The sky in Mississippi had never appeared as beautiful as it did during those nights in Wadi Rum. We visited the desert with a group of Bedouins which made the experience more than a simple sightseeing trip. During the day, we raced across the desert in old Jeeps, and during the night, we ate traditional Bedouin food, danced to Bedouin music, and slept in tents.

Describe your favorite must-have food that you tried abroad.

Samira: It isn't exactly a food, but I have been missing lemonade with mint since I've returned from Jordan. It is a drink that a lot of American students over there loved, myself included. The mint gives the sweet lemonade a tanginess that makes the drink delicious.

I have not seen this drink in the United States, but it is always available at the supermarkets or local drink shops in Jordan. If you are buying it from a supermarket, I recommend getting the Tropicana version of the drink. It is the only commercial type I tried, but I loved it. The restaurant "Domiri" has a really good version of the drink as well.

Tell us about any interesting cultural tidbits you noticed about your country:

Samira: I was surprised by the variety in women's fashion in Jordan. Women in Jordan did dress more modestly than women in the United States, and a majority of them did wear the hijab. However, the women did not all wear the same thing because of this.

Some women wore hijabs with skinny jeans and either a long-sleeve shirt over a long sleeve shirt, and some women wore long jackets that covered whatever they wore along with the hijabs. Other women wore abayas that varied in style, and only a small minority wore the niqab. Even the hijabs themselves varied in elaborateness and style. There were solid colored hijabs, and embroidered hijabs, and even a hijab with Angry Birds characters.

Describe your program socially and academically:

Samira: Socially, there wasn't much to do in Irbid. The only exciting things in the city were Movie Box and the bowling alley, but people still found ways to have fun. We all lived in the same apartment building, so we thought of each other as family.

The CET program had a rigorous academic program. I had to speak Arabic both during and outside of class, and there was always homework. Homework was generally reading either an article about three pages long or a chapter of a novel, but the readings had so many new vocabulary that they would take up my free time.

Added to that, we would watch videos, have weekly vocabulary tests, and a final ten page research paper. I was studying Arabic all the time, but it paid off. I jumped from a novice to an advanced level on my OPI thanks to the academic program.