Dakotah Manson is a student at Allegheny College and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying with ISA in Amman, Jordan.
“Why are you going to the Middle East? Isn’t it dangerous?” I wish I had been given a dollar every time I was asked this question because I would be rich by now…
The beginning of my freshman year I decided to take a leap of faith and registered to take an “Intro to Arabic” class. I’m in college and I’m not entirely positive what I want to do with my life, why not take the road less traveled? How many people do you meet on a daily basis that actually know this beautiful language? Spontaneous really should be my middle name.
I distinctly remember the day I received the good news that I had been accepted to go abroad. I was walking out of an Arabic lab checking my email and I suddenly began jumping up and down yelling, “I’M GOING TO JORDAN!”.
Now I won’t lie, I’ve never been great with languages and Arabic was incredibly challenging. I spent hours doing homework, meeting with study groups, and asking for help from my professor but in the end, it was beyond rewarding. I wasn’t only learning about a language, I was learning about a culture that people in the United States don’t entirely seem to understand.
I believe there is such a negative connotation attached to the words “Middle East” and I wanted to change that, even if it was just in my circle of family and friends. I want people to love it as much as I did. No, it’s not all about terrorists and war here and no, I do not have to cover myself head to toe. I make sure to dress a little more conservatively to respect the Middle Eastern culture but it’s still what I’d wear at home!
At school, I was only given a “taste” of the culture and I wanted the full experience. My Arabic class and our teacher’s assistant , who was from Yemen, would spend hours together cooking Middle Eastern dishes, learning different styles of dance, how people dressed, and I even participated in a “fake” wedding at one point. Imagine if I could do all of this where it originated!
On top of that, I was fascinated with the beautiful mosques, the history, falafel and hummus were already one of my favorite foods, and my career path was starting to open up to me. I wanted to learn as much as I could about this region in all aspects.
My one Arabic class turned into 4 semesters and the declaration of one of my majors which you guessed it, focuses on the Middle East! I chose to study abroad in Jordan because it is a safe country (I can vouch for that having been here for awhile now) and the Arabic taught in class is closest to Jordanian dialect. Also, have you seen this country? It’s beautiful! They also have kanafeh, a delicious cheesy dessert that has stolen my heart, so in my opinion there was really no better choice. I took the road less traveled and it really has made all the difference. You should try it sometime because I couldn’t be happier!
The world awaits…discover it.