This upcoming fall I will be studying in Amman, Jordan. As an Arab & Islamic Studies major, I knew that I wanted to spend a semester abroad in the Middle East; I figured that my exposure to an entirely different culture and lifestyle from my own would not only hone my Arabic language skills but also offer me the opportunity to experience life in an Arab country. Although I could not be any more ecstatic for this new journey, I have encountered vast amounts of negativity regarding my study abroad choices.
One of the most common responses that I hear whenever I tell someone that I am an Arabic major about to spend a semester in Jordan is a long, awkward pause. I understand that my choice in a host country is extremely different from the majority of my friends who have chosen popular European countries, such as the U.K., Ireland, Italy, etc. But I immediately notice that my extremely different study abroad choice affects the way people engage with me in conversation. After the long, awkward pause usually comes a solitary, "Oh" response. Sometimes, people will say, "Wow!" or "That is so cool!" And while I welcome and appreciate the positive responses, it is important to acknowledge the disproportionate amount of negative attention that choosing to study in the Middle East has led me to experience.
Another common response that I hear is, "Why don't you go to (insert European city name) instead?" Although the question seems harmless, the individual who asks me this usually does not realize its underlying ignorance. There should be nothing wrong with studying abroad in a different place, especially because not everyone's study abroad experience is the same nor should it be. Additionally, there is also nothing wrong with choosing a location that is a common study abroad destination, such as London or Florence. These cities have different things to offer for different people and choosing to spend a semester abroad anywhere in the world is a wonderful thing.
I just think that there should be an equal appreciation for students and their study abroad choices wherever they may be on the globe. My choice to study abroad in Amman deserves the same praise and excitement as choosing to study abroad in Rome. Furthermore, a reason why I chose Amman is that study abroad seems like the only time in my life that I will be able to fully immerse in a country that I never considered traveling to before, so why not take advantage of this opportunity?