Dispatch From Abroad: Language Study in Jordan

By Brian Engel

The Hills of the Jordanian Desert, Near Petra. Photo: Brian Engel

My name is Brian Engel, and I’m a rising senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs pursuing a degree in International Affairs and Political Science.  I’m spending this summer living and studying abroad in Amman, Jordan, at the Qasid Institute for Classical and Modern Standard Arabic.  My concentrations in Conflict & Security and Middle Eastern Studies made the decision to study Arabic, as well as the decision to go abroad to the Middle East, relatively painless.  I can honestly say that while I’ve only been here for roughly a month, I have no regrets thus far.

The Qasid Institute has been a great experience all around.  The faculty is informed and helpful, and their method of teaching Arabic matches up well with the classes I’ve taken at GW.  While I’m enrolled in the Modern Standard track, I know a number of students who are studying the Classical track and enjoying their time just as much.  Additionally, the Institute also offers classes in Colloquial Jordanian dialect, Ammiyya, as well as Tajwid, the science of producing the correct pronunciation and intonation in Arabic.

Amman has proven to be a wonderful city to be a student in.  Jordan’s relatively small size makes day trips and weekend trips—even to neighboring countries—possible.  Having only been in the country a short time, I’ve already explored the ruins of Jerash, the old market in al-Balad, the Citadel ruins, the Dead Sea, Wadi Mujib, and Petra.  Each of these trips has been its own micro-experience in bringing to life what I’ve spent the last three years learning about in classrooms in 1957 E Street.

The Canyon Walls of Petra, in Jordan. Photo: Brian Engel

I’m increasingly coming to appreciate the importance of making the link between what you learn as an international affairs student from books and lectures, and coming to understand different people, cultures, and ideas based on your own experiences.  As I spend more time in Amman and around Jordan, I grow more and more convinced that each is necessary to becoming a well rounded student.

I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go abroad.  My Arabic is improving, I’m learning new things about the culture, meeting new people and other students—ones who have different perspectives and backgrounds than mine—and coming to understand life outside of GW, Washington, D.C., and the United States.

Brian is a rising senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs pursuing a B.A. in International Affairs and Political Science. Around GW, he is a member of the GW Cheer Team, a Brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and he spent last summer as a member of the 2008 Colonial Cabinet. This past year, he interned for the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in their Commercial Office working on various economic research projects, and has spent the summer in Amman, Jordon, studying at the Qasid Institute for Classical and Modern Standard Arabic.

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