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Student Reflections

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been a part of the UVa-Yarmouk University Arabic program this summer.   I had never traveled to the Middle East before my time in Irbid, and I am so glad that my first experience in the region was under the guidance of this program and its leadership.   I feel that this program strikes a good balance between encouraging participants’ independent discoveries of Jordan and its culture, while also providing enough background support and structure to ensure that everyone’s experience is a generally positive one.  The teachers are patient and genuinely want you to succeed, the material is engaging and relevant, and I know that many of the friendships I have formed this summer with my fellow program participants will continue long after our return to the United States.  To anyone looking to concentrate on improving his or her Arabic and pushing the boundaries of his or her comfort zone, I would highly recommend this program.

Mary Ella Simmons
The University of Chicago, 2012 Participant

 

This summer has been one of the greatest experiences I have had in my life.  As expected, the courses were very intensive, but within two weeks I had gone from feeling confused and a little lost in Irbid, unable to order anything other than falafel, to feeling comfortable and capable.  The teachers associated with the program are wonderful, and always worked with me when I did not understand a certain concept.  Irbid itself is a great place to study Arabic in an immersion setting because the everyday life experiences, such as taking a taxi, ordering from a restaurant, or going grocery shopping, required me to use Arabic.  Most of the students also had language buddies on the program, which I found only further improved my Arabic, while giving me the opportunity to make some great friends.  I would strongly recommend this program to anyone who wants to improve their Arabic in an immersion setting.   

Zoe Newberg
University of Virginia, 2012 Participant

 

My experience with the UVa-Yarmouk University Summer Arabic Program was the best I could ask for, both in terms of learning Arabic and immersion in Jordanian culture.  The academic program was intensive but not overwhelming; the professors were always warm, approachable, and incredibly helpful, and were deeply invested in their students' success.  The classroom environment benefited from their fantastic teaching as well as the support and enthusiasm of my fellow classmates. Irbid itself is the perfect place to learn Arabic, and everyone in the program got to know at least a few locals and had the chance to practice Arabic in an authentic environment.  My friends and I were invited to weddings and friends' houses, which allowed us to experience personally Jordanian culture and hospitality, and we formed close and lasting friendships with our language partners.  The chance to learn Arabic while living in Irbid has been an incredibly enriching experience that has brought to life much of the culture that I had only read about before now, and I fully and completely recommend this program to anyone who wishes to study Arabic.

Clare J. Duncan
Harvard University, 2012 Participant

 

UVA’s Arabic program in Yarmouk University was a great opportunity for enhancing my skills in many ways. The location is perfect – you can easily find people to talk to on a daily basis in Arabic. I was exposed to idioms and slangs, and I was able to pick up colloquial Arabic fairly quickly as well. The instructors are very energetic and experienced, and their enthusiasm was a huge motivation for me.  We had separate classes for listening, reading, grammar, and speaking, and my Arabic skills have definitely become well rounded.  My biggest achievement is that I am less hesitant and I feel more confident when I am having conversations in Arabic.  Jordan’s central location is also great for travelling, and in Irbid, I was able to gain insight into the less cosmopolitan lifestyle (which people are less exposed to when travelling) in an Arab country.

Claire Seul-Bee Lee
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2012 Participant

 

Studying Arabic in the UVA-Yarmouk Program has been a great experience. The professors at Yarmouk are very high-energy and make themselves available to students every day. Learning Arabic in an Arabic-only class setting can be intimidating at first, but the instructors at Yarmouk use a lot of humor to make classes comfortable and enjoyable. Without a doubt, the instructors know how to get the most out of students. While Irbid might be smaller than Amman, it is a great place to live and study Arabic. There are many opportunities to use Arabic outside of the classroom, the mild weather was a nice reprieve from the Washington DC summer, and I can honestly say the people of Irbid have been some of the most welcoming people I have known.

James Murphy
George Washington University, 2011 Participant

 

On one of my first days with the UVa-Yarmouk University Summer Arabic Program, one of my professors proclaimed, “You aren’t here to get good grades, you are here to learn Arabic!” Though spoken with a sense of humor, these words captured both the abundant challenges and tremendous strides of progress this program offers in just one short summer. The professors, staff, and fellow students at the language center combine to form an indispensable community of support and expertise, while the safe and friendly city of Irbid provides immersion without distraction. Most students meet many locals and have the opportunity to experience the full force of Jordanian hospitality. Beyond Irbid, students are able to explore Jordan’s tremendous history and beautiful landscapes, while many also choose to travel outside of Jordan. I can honestly say that my time here has brought Arabic language and culture to life for me, and I would recommend this program without reservation to any serious student of Arabic.

Jessica Anderson
University of Kentucky, 2011 Participant

 

UVA-Yarmouk's summer Arabic program is without a doubt one of the best academic experiences I've ever had. Classes are rigorous and the work is grueling, but with a great deal of hard work and amazing instruction, my Arabic has improved tremendously. The Language Center's teachers and the program staff are incredibly friendly and always willing to lend a hand. The city of Irbid itself is the ideal environment in which to learn a foreign language--few of the shop owners and other locals speak English, so you'll have a chance to practice your Arabic on a daily basis. 

In addition to learning Arabic, the program provides numerous opportunities to travel and gain a more advanced knowledge of regional culture. In my time with the program, I've traveled to historical sites such as Jerash, Ajloun, Umm Qais, and Wadi Rum, in addition to trips to Amman and the long break, which I spent in Beirut. Ultimately, the people whom I've met in Jordan--fellow classmates, as well as language partners and other Jordanians--and the conversations I've had with them, from religion to politics and everything in between, have defined my experience, and given me a new and valuable perspective on life in the Middle East.

Christiana Renfro
Princeton University, 2011 Participant

 

The UVa-Yarmouk Summer Program generates tremendous progress in learning Arabic. The administrators and teachers were extremely positive and went out of their way to help us improve on many levels. Language partnering provided a unique opportunity for practicing speaking and listening skills while enhancing our functional vocabulary. Irbid is an ideal city for students studying Arabic. The openness of Irbid's population differs from that of larger cities and afforded us genuine exposure to Arab culture. Despite its modest size, Irbid possesses all the amenities necessary for making life exciting and varied. Additionally, its location serves well as a starting point for travel throughout Jordan and the Middle East. As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised with the weight room, pool, gymnasium, and Field Turf soccer field. This program is unrivaled in its blend of immersion in Arabic language and exposure to Arab culture. 

Ryan Callahan
Harvard University, 2011 Participant

 

The UVA-Yarmouk University Summer Arabic Program is an excellent choice for any student looking to strengthen their grasp of the Arabic language. During my first night in Irbid I found myself barely able to choke out my greetings, but after eight weeks of intense study, I could comfortably converse on a wide variety of topics with Jordanians ranging from my language partner and professors at the university to taxi drivers and shop owners in the street. The professors in the Language Center are excellent, and the incredible program staff will go out of their way to help you with anything you might need, whether related to Arabic, travel, or research. In addition to the outstanding language instruction, the program also offers students the opportunity to explore Jordan and the surrounding countries. At the end of the eight weeks you will have experienced more than you thought possible, and you will return home with a deeper passion for the Arabic language, a better understanding of the Middle East and Jordanian society, and a new group of close friends.

 

Scott Williamson

Indiana University, Bloomington, 2010 Participant

 

The UVA-Yarmouk Summer Program is a rigorous, challenging academic experience that will greatly improve your comprehension of the Arabic language, its profundity and beauty. Language instructors are engaging, dedicated, and will--Inshallah -- make you laugh. You will have opportunities to experience Jordan's natural and cultural treasures. Irbid is a bustling, mid-sized city with milder summer weather and cleaner air than the larger cities in the region. Its central location in relation to Amman, Damascus, and Jerusalem is also ideal for travel. But I returned to Yarmouk mainly to experience the program's rigor and to enjoy the hospitality and kindness of the Jordanian people.

William Hunt
Duke University, 2002 and 2009 Participant

 

I would highly recommend the UVA/Yarmouk Program to students studying Arabic! I left Jordan not only with more confidence in my Arabic language skills but also with a deeper and subtler understanding of Arab culture, which enabled me to view American culture in a new light upon my return. My responses to the daily cultural, academic, and interpersonal challenges I encountered taught me valuable lessons about myself. Most importantly, I will never forget the friends I made while in Jordan, not only my Arab friends in Irbid but also the other American students in the program.

Rebecca LeAnn Gruskin
Harvard University, 2009 Participant

 

On the first day of classes, I almost cried. It was through no fault of the teachers; they were funny and kind, or at least so it seemed – the truth was I had no idea what they were saying. Participants discovered, soon enough, that the Language Center at Yarmouk University had an implicit motto: Arabic, like beauty, is pain. But although classes were demanding, our teachers became first and foremost our mentors and parents away from home – and their brand of hard love paid off. At the end of the program, I traveled to Lebanon, where I found myself translating a broadcast of Al-Jazeera at a bar in Beirut. “Where did you learn Arabic?” someone asked. “Yarmouk!” I said proudly.

Although all the program participants were strangers at the beginning of the summer, nothing induced group bonding like waiting six hours for a visa at the Syrian border. Besides Damascus, I also traveled to Amman, Wadi Rum, Beirut, and Jerusalem, in addition to the Program sponsored group trips to Petra in the south of Jordan and Umm Qais, Ajloun and Jerash in the north. And because nine weeks were not enough, the Program participants of my year spent the early months of fall semester visiting each other back home in the States.

Before coming to Irbid, I knew no Jordanians. By the time I left, I knew considerably more, and I became particularly close to several, including my language buddy, Rana.

Alice Nam
Stanford University, 2009 Participant


Living in Irbid for two months was a unique experience in many ways. As an Arabic-speaking only environment, Irbid offered daily opportunities to enhance our learning of Arabic outside of class. It provided a full and continuous cultural immersion one can find in few other programs. Classes were intense but well-structured and enabled us to improve all skills concurrently, fully meeting our expectations. Besides, the program provided a wide range of opportunities to explore the rest of the Jordan through weekend-long field trips, while the location allowed students to travel easily to neighboring countries. We wholeheartedly recommend it.

Alexandre Terrien and Lorenzo Bartolucci
Harvard University, 2008 Participants

 

I decided to attend the UVA-Yarmouk program because I wanted an opportunity to study Arabic in a practical environment, and that's exactly what I got. From small talk with taxi drivers to political debates in class, Arabic went from being an academic pursuit to a valuable communication tool. I went from barely being able to introduce myself to being able to discuss (after spending a lot of time with the dictionary, of course) everything from literature to the environment. The combination of rigorous academic weeks and unforgettable week end travel in beautiful, hospitable Jordan made this summer a priceless experience.

Joelle Portzer
University of Virginia, 2008 Participant

 

Spending the summer after my first year of Arabic at the University of Virginia-Yarmouk Summer Arabic Program in Irbid was the best decision I could have made for my Arabic education. The program is unapologetically intense, and requires a real love of the language and a commitment to learning in order to make it through. However, because of the high expectations of the program, I learned more Arabic than I previously imagined was possible in such a short period of time. The professors in the program are extremely knowledgeable and always enthusiastic about providing extra help after classes, while their teaching methods keep the classes both challenging and enjoyable. Additionally, Irbid is a great city in which to learn Arabic -- because it is not very Westernized, there are few distractions and a lot of opportunities to practice speaking with locals who don't speak English. By spending my summer at the UVA/Yarmouk program, I learned an infinite amount about the Arabic language, life in Jordan, Middle Eastern culture and -- most of all -- myself. I highly recommend this program to any serious student of Arabic.

Martine Powers
Yale University, 2008 Participant

 

The UVA-Yarmouk Summer Arabic Program allowed me, as an American, to have a wonderful experience with a different country, language, and culture for the first time while still being in the familiar role of a university student. 

Sahar Ullah
University of Chicago, 2006 Participant

 

This program was not only helpful to me academically, but it was also a life-changing experience.  As a result of participating in this intensive language program, I felt much more confident and comfortable with my use of the Arabic language.  The classes were all taught by excellent Jordanian professors that were enthusiastic about their language and culture, and passed on this feeling to their students.  Also, through day to day interactions with Jordanians and people from all over the region, I gained a new insight into the Middle Eastern culture that I had never had before.  Participation in this program reaffirmed my desire to live or work in the Middle East after I graduate, and if given the opportunity I would gladly do this Program again.

Sincerely,

Andrew Kennedy
University of Virginia, 2006 Participant

I spent the summer after my second year in Jordan and had such a great time! The culture is incredibly different, but the people are generous and kind, and they want to help you with your Arabic, although many like to practice their English instead. Class was hard at first, but it definitely got easier as the weeks went on and I found it very manageable to do everything I wanted to. Visiting places on the weekends is so easy- whether by bus, taxi, or plane- and I would highly encourage taking advantage of all the amazing places nearby. I definitely recommend this program to anyone willing to work seriously on their Arabic and interested in all the Middle East has to offer.

Kaitlin C. Bottock
University of Virginia, 2006 Participant

During this program I met so many different people and heard their stories.  My experiences and Jordanian friends taught me more than I ever imagined.  I learned that expectations and preconceptions are constantly overturned and modified, especially those concerning other cultures.  In addition to this new knowledge, I also took with me lasting correspondences and friendships.

Brittany Rogerson
University of Virginia, 2006 Participant

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2012 University of Virginia Arabic Program