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Language immersion: Smithie travels to Middle East

Eleana Jordan

Eleana Thompson ’16 at the Treasury Building in Petra, Jordan.

Eleana Thompson ’16, a self-designed Middle Eastern studies major and psychology minor, spent one month this summer in Amman, Jordan for AMIDEAST’s Intensive Arabic Program. The program’s objectives are to increase students’ Arabic proficiency through rigorous training consisting of class five hours a day led by professors from the Qasid Institute for Classical and Modern Standard Arabic. Four of these five hours were devoted to learning modern standard Arabic; the remaining hour focused on the Jordanian dialect. While in Jordan, Eleana lived with a host family and had the opportunity to travel throughout the country to famous attractions, including the Dead Sea, Petra, Madaba, and the Wadi Rum desert.

Eleana’s Smith education helped prepare her for handling the challenging workload she was given in the AMIDEAST program. The skills she had perfected during her first year at Smith, like critical writing, thinking, and studying skills, were very applicable to advancing her foreign language studies in Amman. She remarked that Smith has also “taught [her] to be respectful and open minded when approaching a teacher about confusing class material.”

Eleana found it challenging to stay positive and motivated during the program. She attributes her frustrations to the Arabic language, which is drastically different from the structure of English in terms of the alphabet, grammar, and vocabulary. Her whole world revolved around Arabic—in the classroom, with her host family, and studying it for an average of three hours a night.

This experience was also unique in that it marked the first time Eleana was abroad by herself. She has been abroad extensively since the age of three, but in Jordan she was required to be self-sufficient for budgeting, transportation, etc. During her junior year, she hopes to study abroad in the Middle East, possibly Jordan, to further her Arabic language skills and to “continue the adventures she began this summer”.

Smith’s Global STRIDE program, the Middle Eastern Studies Department’s Leila Wilson Fund, and the Class Deans Grant funded Eleana’s study abroad experience.

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