Week 2: Welcome to Amman

With a population of over four million, Amman is the Levant’s largest city. Despite its size, Amman keeps a low profile. The city prefers to remain calm and drama-free in a region where many places are known for the wrong reasons.

Amman’s safety and stability have made it a center for Arabic study abroad programs. In 2011, students studying in Egypt and other nearby countries found refuge in Amman when the Arab spring began. Since then, Amman has emerged as the main destination for Arabic study abroad students from the west.

Amman has also become a center for intra-Middle East migration. Many Egyptians, Yemenis, Iraqis, and Syrians now call the city home, joining the Jordanian-Palestinians who moved here in centuries past, and the native Jordanians who have called this place home since antiquity.

The recent waves of migration have made Amman the most cosmopolitan city of the Levant. In my neighborhood, one can find a diverse group of people, and they’ve brought their cuisines as well: Indian, Palestinian, Jordanian, Yemeni, Chinese, and American restaurants all line the streets of Jubeiha.

My program, CET Jordan, is located at the University of Jordan, which is the country’s largest and most prestigious University. The surrounding Jubeiha neighborhood caters to students, so it’s walkable, diverse, and full of life until the very late hours of the night, unlike the average Amman neighborhood, which is residential and family-oriented.

Amman’s historical city center (Wasat al-Balad, literally: Center of the Country) features ancient Roman and Islamic monuments, souks offering traditional wears, eats, and gifts. Nearby one can find Souk al-Jumuah, a weekly second-hand market.

Slightly northwest are neighborhoods catered to affluent Jordanians and expatriates: Rainbow street, which features high-end cafes and restaurants, along with much of Amman’s nightlife. Nearby is Jabal Weibdeh, an area with a sizable Christian population with a mix of traditional eats and international, expatriate-oriented restaurants.

In the following blogs, I’ll be giving you a look into life in Amman and the various neighborhoods.

Week 1: Pre-Departure Reflections, The Journey So Far

I remember when I first considered studying abroad in Jordan. I was a prospective transfer student researching the Arabic program at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. I had taken two semesters of Arabic at the Dearborn campus, where the program was smaller, MSA-only, and didn’t offer study abroad. The possibility of learning colloquial Arabic while living in Jordan convinced me to transfer from the University of Michigan’s central campus in Ann Arbor.

After transferring to Ann Arbor, I spent my first three semesters on campus taking eighteen credit semesters. I wanted to complete my on-campus coursework as quickly as possible to free up my final year to study abroad. I was also applying to a dozen scholarships — my sophomore and junior years were spent making the year abroad a reality.

In the second semester of my junior year, I nervously awaited the results of my applications. As the weeks went by, I calculated the program costs over and over again. I was counting on getting the scholarships, as I had already committed by paying the program deposit. Then one day I received an email: I was awarded a grant for both the summer and academic year. I couldn’t believe it — I was going to Amman for a year.

Though I was initially relieved, I grew more worried as the departure date came closer. I had never lived in the Arab world, and I didn’t know Arabic that well, let alone the local Jordanian dialect. I also saw the opportunity cost of my decision when my friends and classmates were preparing to begin internships and full-time jobs.

In May 2019, I took my last economics final and left Ann Arbor, never to return as a student again. Shortly afterwards I departed to Amman, an unfamiliar city that would become my home for the next year.