As my internship, and the summer, winds down many of the foreigners (ijanib) that I have met this summer have left, as well as Jordanian students who study outside Jordan. This has led me to spend my weekends with the rest of my friends how many Jordanian youth spend their time. Just hanging out at cafes playing cards or chilling on the street not really doing anything, instead of going to clubs, bars, or events. It is much more boring but also feels more authentic and more characteristic of the youth here. I have got to talking with my Jordanian friends and acquaintances about things such as life and the future. Many youth in Jordan, like in the United States, do not have a lot of hopes for the future. Youth unemployment is extremely high and Amman is the most expensive city in the Arab world, with respect to the level of salaries. Austerity measures forced on the country by the IMF and World Bank have only made the situation worse in the past years. Many youth that can leave are leaving, and those that cannot leave want to leave. Many of them want to go to the United States, Turkey, or the Gulf. One of the few things Jordanians have to be optimistic about is the relative security and stability the country enjoys compared to the rest of the region.
This relates to my research of the situation in the Arab world post-Arab ‘Spring’. The Arab Spring was first and foremost a reaction against these austerity measures forced upon the region by the international organizations and the United States, who support(ed) many of these repressive regimes in the region. The ironic thing is that many youth want to go to the United States, which bears responsibility for the economic and political situation in the region. However, many youth in the United States also have immense fears and anxiety about their own futures, only exacerbated under the current administration. Change in the region will be brought by the youth fighting against these powerful institutions backed by the United States, and not by the US itself, as is so often claimed.
July is now over and I only have a few weeks left of my internship. More interns finished up their times at the Center and returned to the United States, as well as some students I met from outside the program. So now there are only a few interns left for the rest of August, and I will have to find other things to do to keep busy before my academic program starts in September. They are right when they say August is the Sunday of summer.
I am still enjoying my research at the Center and just finished up a project for my mentor, Dr. Lamis elMuhtaseb. I am looking forward to what she will have me working on next. Recently, I have found more time to review my Arabic vocab and grammar, and have been putting that into practice when I am out and about. I want to be ready for when the semester starts next month. Overall, although things have slowed down, I am still enjoying my internship and time here in Amman this summer!
I am now more than halfway done with my internship at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, and I am already thankful for my time here. I have gotten the chance to meet great researchers and great interns so far. This past week two interns finished up and went back home. These are two students that I had become great friends with and will definitely be staying in touch with. It is amazing how I have been able to meet students, and friends, from all over the world.
Although I am not studying, my Arabic continues to improve just by talking and listening to people, and reading news and scholarly papers for my internship. I am looking forward to the start of the new semester where I will hopefully be able to bring my Arabic to the next level. I have an apartment mate who is studying Arabic here for the very first time and he just became first aid certified which will allow him to work in refugee camps here in Amman, and I am thinking about also doing that if I have free time in the fall. Right now I am just living here and not really giving back to the community that has been so nice to me and made me feel at home. If I can find a way to give back my time here will feel more rewarding, as well as improve my Arabic even more while helping people!
This week has been a very fun week. At my internship I had to conduct an interview with my mentor for the INP, and it was very insightful. My mentor and I discussed research, academia, and life in Jordan. The conversation helped me in my skills and goals. My mentor has been giving me a lot of work recently and honestly, I love it. I really do believe research is for me. This was the first week that I interacted with the other interns on more than a professional level. We all went to Jordanian Food Week together. We learned how to make traditional Jordanian food, and I cannot wait to make it at home for my friends and family.
Yesterday I had the chance to put those new cooking skills to the test. A Jordanian friend of mine and I made a kufta dish. Kufta is a a dish with meatballs of ground meet and spices made with onions,tomato sauce, and chopped tomatoes. It was zeki kiteer (very delicious)! Up until this week I was very bored because I have already done the touristy things here in Jordan, and have been living more as a professional, rather than a tourist. But this week I had more fun inside and outside the workplace. I am looking forward to the last month of my internship!
So I have finished up my third week of my internship, and have been back in Amman for four weeks now. In the last week and a half I have noticed that my Arabic skills are growing although I am currently not studying or reviewing any material. My speaking and listening has reached a level I never thought it would without review or study. I have also reached a level of comfort here that I did not expect. Whether it is giving Jordanians directions, having complex conversations with taxi drivers, or talking with the staff at the Center over some Arabic coffee in the break room, I do not feel out of place.
At the Center I am currently enjoying my role and my tasks. My mentor, Dr. Lamees, is fantastic. She makes time to meet with me everyday to discuss how my research is going, where I stand, what are my difficulties and what she can do to help me, etc. I really enjoy being in this academic environment. I have views on the Middle East and North Africa region that are considered ‘radical’ and have not been encouraged to pursue those views, but here these views are commonplace and I have been encouraged, not only by Dr. Lamees, to pursue research on these issues. It has been very reassuring and renewed my interest in research.
As I finish up my second week on the job, I am finally getting accustomed to my new routine in Amman. I have figured out where to find buses, and how to take them, something I was not able to do in the spring when I was here. Taking a bus in Amman is always a risk because they don’t operate on a schedule and can be very early or very late. In the last few years there have been grassroots efforts at trying trying to educate Jordanians on how the bus system currently operates, and well as to force the bus system to adopt a formal schedule with official stations and times. The people on my street are starting to recognize me and I have engaged in conversations with quite a few of them. All in all, Jordanians are extremely nice people and I have never felt unwelcomed here.
This week I was assigned a new supervisor, Dr. Lamees ElMutahseb. Dr. Lamees specializes in movements, especially religious movements, and I have been assigned to help her research theories of modernization, how these theories have influenced modernization and development in the Middle East and North Africa, and how religion has played a role, if any, in this process. One important thing that happened this week was that I decided that enrolling in a Master’s program is most likely the right choice for me. So, you could say that this internship is helping me narrow in on my career path!
I arrived in Amman last Tuesday and started my internship at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan this past Sunday, June 24. I had the chance to study abroad this past spring in Amman where I met my internship coordinator, Dr. Sara Ababneh. Dr. Ababneh offered me an internship at the Center for Strategic Studies in March when I was struggling to find summer internship opportunities. When I arrived at the center on Sunday I was greeted by my advusor Dr. Walid AlKhatib. Dr. AlKhatib assigned me to assist him on research about social and labor movements in Jordan. This is extremely pertinent as Jordan has just gone through weeks of protests over the income tax that the government was ready to implement. Protests are nothing new to Jordan, as Jordanians protested on and off for nearly 2 years during the Arab Spring in 2010-2012, demanding economic and political reform. So far in my first week I have compared how the Western media has covered these two different waves of protests. I like the support I am getting at the Center for Strategic Studies with my research, although Dr. Walid is my research advisor, I can go to any one of the researchers at the Center and receive tips, advice, sources, etc. I am glad what my first week has brought, and I am looking forward to the coming weeks.