A Middle Eastern adventure complete with warm, arid winds and a trusty camel. Sun and sand, scorching daytime temperatures and cool, dark nights gazing up at the infinite stars of the desert sky. This is how I expected to begin my semester: far away from the cold and muck of Syracuse, caught up in my own study abroad world of Arabic language and Jordanian culture.
As a Middle Eastern studies and magazine journalism major, I hope to improve my Arabic skills and gain experience in Arab culture. But beyond this, I want to find stories of real Middle Eastern people and tell them to you. Let's look past the reports of violence and turmoil that frequent the evening news and find out about the everyday life of the Middle East.
While my travel plans still remain intact, classes at Syracuse have begun and I now find myself in the most frustrating of positions: waiting.
My plane doesn't take off until next Tuesday, a date that seems all too distant as I sit at my empty kitchen table in Scranton, Pa., far away from my friends at Syracuse and even farther from my host city of Irbid, Jordan. Yet despite my own impatience, I begrudgingly admit that this offers a nice opportunity for introductions.
My name is Lara and I will be spending my spring semester in Irbid, Jordan learning Arabic. I'll be studying at Yarmouk University, a renowned Jordanian university with twice as many students as Syracuse. Though I don't know much, these are the basics I know about Jordan so far:
Jordan is a small Middle Eastern country, roughly the size and population of Indiana. The majority of Jordanians are Muslim, and most of the country speaks Arab. While it shares borders with Syria, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Jordan itself has remained fairly calm and peaceful. The constitutional monarch, King Abdullah II, is well received by his subjects, at least presently, and there is little worry of uprisings.
But beyond the statistics, Jordan is brought to life by its people and culture, which have been influenced by the Romans and Crusaders, Muslim armies and traveling Arab caravans over its centuries of development. There is so much more to Jordan, and all of the Middle East, than the conflict we've grown accustomed to associating with it.
I want to stroll through the markets and chat with locals. I want to float in the Dead Sea and let the salt dry on my skin. I want to ride a camel through the desert, and at night look up at the countless desert stars. And I will, I promise. You'll hear all about it.
In the meantime, enjoy syllabus week, and the fact that you're not sitting alone at your kitchen table.