The SIT program in Amman, Jordan was great for a number of reasons. The staff is made up of a group of amazing and kind people. If we had any issues or concerns we went to the staff and they worked with us. They are also very connected in Jordan, which was especially helpful during the ISP period when we needed advisers and people to interview. I was fortunate enough to interview 15 Jordanians and pass out my surveys to over 70 Jordanian students. I was even able to interview two former Jordanian ministers of culture.
Arabic classes were small and had a lot of individualized instruction. The seminars were larger, but our group was also larger than the usual group. Many of the lecturers were really interesting. The ISP project was a lot of work but the work load in general was not that demanding. We had plenty of free time to explore the city and get to know each other, other foreign students, and locals. I joined a youth tennis group (I was by far the oldest but it was a good experience!) and played at least once a week.
The excursions were one of my favorite aspects of the program. We traveled to post- revolution Egypt, which was a great experience. We stayed in Cairo and also spent a day in Alexandria. We also went on numerous excursions throughout Jordan. I swam in the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Red Sea. Swimming in the Dead Sea and seeing Israel on the other side was a really cool experience. When we visited Aqaba, which is on the Red Sea, SIT rented an entire boat for us. We spent the day sunbathing, snorkeling, jumping off the boat, and enjoying each other’s company. We also spent a night in the Wadi Rum desert, where we rode on camels and ran in (and rolled down) sand dunes.
Living with host families was a terrific experience. Over a year later I still email my host family and they send me pictures of my little host sister. It was a good way to practice speaking Arabic, although it is easy to slip into English if your host family speaks some English. You have to force yourself to speak Arabic if you want to improve. I enjoyed living in Amman and being able to take a cheap taxi anywhere. The only issue I had was standing out as an obvious foreigner. Girls in our program often received negative but generally harmless attention (though it was irritating and frustrating- and it was important to be careful). This can happen anywhere in the world, of course, but it was especially bad in the downtown area of Amman.
Overall, Jordanians are some of the most accommodating and kind people I have ever met. Everyone made sure we were comfortable and enjoying our time in Jordan. Whenever we were guests in someone’s home they made sure we had plenty to eat and drink. Guests certainly never go hungry in Jordan! Even if you are not hungry, you can expect to be offered ample amounts of food. It is terrific but difficult to refuse if you are feeling stuffed. The generosity was really amazing though. During the rural Badia homestay I told a complete stranger that I thought her scarf was pretty. She immediately removed it and offered it to me. This was not an uncommon occurrence either. I remember the generosity of the people the very fondly when I think of Jordan.