Dalia Khattab is an undecided freshman from Amman, Jordan.
What were you expecting before you came to the US?
Well, I went to the American Community School in Amman, Jordan and, although we still had a big Jordanian population, we got pretty used to American culture. I think it prepared me well for American culture, although being in America is very different from just experiencing the culture.
What was it like when you did come to the US?
Being surrounded by the culture 24/7 certainly makes it a bit tough. Again, although I was familiar with American culture before, actually being in the country and interacting with people is much different.
Every once in a while, I do crave Jordanian food, obviously, which can be hard. But the food here is good, although sometimes it can be repetitive. I expected it to be much worse. There is a lot of Western influence in Jordan, though, and normally when my friends and I would go out to eat, we would go to an American restaurant.
One thing that took getting used to is that, in the US, the main meal is dinner; in Jordan, it’s lunch, and we have it around 3 p.m. Here, people eat lunch at 11 a.m., so my eating schedule has gotten really messed up.
Also, our weekends are different back home. They start on Thursday and end on Saturday night, so here I always have trouble remembering that I have school on Friday, and things like that.
What do you think is a big difference between Jordan and the US?
The culture is completely different. The mentality itself is different. I feel like here no one really cares what you’re doing, although maybe that’s just Lawrence. People don’t necessarily focus on your differences. If you’re walking in Jordan with, like, green hair, people are definitely going to look at you because it’s not the norm, although it doesn’t mean that they’re judging you.
A big similarity?
I think hospitality is a big similarity. In Jordan, if you’re in the rural areas, or lost in the desert or something, this Bedouin will invite you in for coffee and make sure that you’re eating well and you get back home all right. Here, if I’m lost people will also be really nice and make sure I’m safe. People in Wisconsin are nicer than people in Chicago, though.
Lucy Pipkin is an anthropology and psychology double major from Minneapolis, Minn. She studied abroad in Jordan in Fall Term 2014.
What were you expecting before you went to Jordan?
ACM was really good about giving us information about the program and Jordan before we left, and we had a couple webinars with people, and we had the whole manual to read and all that. From that, my expectations about, say, what people would be wearing was a little off. For example, they told us to dress very conservatively, and so I expected everyone else to be dressing very conservatively, which of course they weren’t. Mostly we were pretty well prepared, though.
What was it like when you did go to the Jordan?
The program does intentionally scare you a bit in the beginning, and the embassy comes in and gives you a big talk when you get there. But once you get settled into the city, it’s really pretty comfortable.
I was expecting that my host family would speak in Arabic most of the time, but my host mother was a teacher and could speak English, French and Spanish. My host sister went to the American university there, and so, spoke English too. You really had to show that you know enough Arabic to communicate.
Getting around the city was interesting. You had to get a taxi to get anywhere. Fortunately it was pretty cheap, and they were everywhere, so it wasn’t a problem. The other way of getting around was walking; it’s a very hilly city, so we got in shape!
One thing I really like about Jordanian culture is that they really take the time to talk, to eat, to have family time and to ask you how you are. Everyone is very welcoming. A lot of cab drivers would tell you about their life stories, and people would really open up when they heard that you were learning Arabic.
What do you think is a big similarity between Jordan and the US?
When I was trying to explain to my parents what my daily life was like there, I had to tell them that it was pretty normal. Days were regular, my host sister watched a lot of TV; we’d eat in front of the TV sometimes. Both my mother and my host mother are teachers, so it was interesting seeing the similarities in their lives and concerns.
A big difference?
People are very appreciative and warm. In the Midwest, people can be really independent; respectful, but also, there’s sometimes some passive aggressiveness. Midwestern, I guess, respecting peoples’ space. In Jordanian culture, everyone is really open and welcoming, and they immediately treat you like family.