New study abroad program expands international horizons

Dec 27, 2012

A new study abroad program in Amman, Jordan, is appealing to students like Carly Johnston ’13, who wanted a life-changing academic experience that would set her apart. “I saw it as an opportunity to expand my resume, learn another language and make connections to make my goals a reality,” she says of her fall term there. “I’m hoping to join the Peace Corps and also connect with the NGO (non-governmental organization) Global Network.”

Other North Central students in Jordan this fall were Lindsey Drummond ’13 and Yasmeen Kiswani ’14. The new direct enrollment program at Qasid Arabic Institute is part of a proposed plan at North Central to supplement and develop the curriculum related to the Middle East and North Africa. “Given the need to understand the culture and language of the region, we’ve been considering adding courses in Arabic language and eventually developing a minor in Middle Eastern/North African Studies,” says Jack Shindler, director of international programs and professor of English. “The Jordan program, offering intensive Arabic for one semester, is an important first step in that direction.”

An anthropology major, Johnston is completing an independent study with the help of a Richter Independent Study Fellowship. She conducted research on American expatriates and how they manage their identities within Jordanian culture. In addition to learning Arabic and conducting research, Johnston volunteered multiple times a week with refugees as an English language tutor.

“The most rewarding part about studying abroad in Jordan is the new perspective I have on life and being a U.S. citizen,” she says. “My pupils were always thankful that I took time to help them and though they didn’t have the means to do so, they would try to repay me. Many are also waiting to become U.S. citizens, something I’ve always taken for granted, along with being a native English-speaker.”

Her advice is to make judgments about a place based on firsthand experiences rather than through media outlets. “It’s unfair to judge an entire region based on media portrayals,” she says. “Jordanians and non-natives alike are incredibly welcoming. I've made lifelong friends here and I'll be sad to leave, but I plan on returning to the region after I graduate from North Central. When I imagine my future, this is where I want to be.”