Student Voices

SITG Dispatch from Jordan

by Henry Branch, ’24 (Summer 2022)

اهلا وسهلا Hello from Amman! My name is Henry Branch—in the Fall of 2022, I’ll be starting my 3rd year at the College majoring in Global Studies and minoring in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations on the Language track. I received a Foreign Language Acquisition Grant and I have used it to study Arabic language for these past 10 weeks in Amman, Jordan. For this Summer term, I am a student at the Qasid Arabic Institute. I’ll tell you a little bit about what an average work day and weekend look like for me.

On the weekdays, which in the Middle East are Sunday through Thursday, I wake up around 10 and make a quick breakfast before studying a bit. I then have Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) class from 12 to 4 each day, which is comprised of two sections with a different teacher for each. I am lucky enough to be in a class with just one other student, so there is more than enough time for conversation, writing, listening, and reading practice. Most classes at Qasid are small and prioritize these four elements of language learning. This pedagogy suits me perfectly as it makes me a well-rounded Arabic speaker. Additionally, I also take an Ammiya, or Jordanian Colloquial Arabic, class. This course meets from 5 to 7 on Mondays and Wednesdays and teaches the local spoken dialect, which differs considerably from Modern Standard Arabic.

After I finish classes, I come home to make some food before getting started on my homework. Depending on the day, my homework can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, but it usually hovers around 2 hours. After working for a while, I might go to the gym to get a workout in or meet up with some friends at a local café or restaurant to chat over some Arabic coffee and tasty eats. Either way, I’ll put my Arabic to use, learning useful phrases and developing my cultural competence. I’ll usually head back home and get to bed, rinse and repeat!

On the weekends, my day looks a bit different. In the past, I have taken trips to various destinations around Jordan. Some of my favorites include Petra, Wadi Rum, Wadi Mujib, and Ajloun Castle. Wadi Rum, in particular, was a highlight—it feels like Mars on Earth! I also traveled to Turkey for the Eid al-Adha holiday!

I am eternally grateful for this experience. I bettered my Arabic tenfold but more importantly have been fortunate enough to experience a culture and connect with Jordanians, Palestinians, and Arabs in a deep and meaningful manner. I’d like to thank Professor Aidan Kaplan as well as UChicago’s Study Abroad office for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!