Obies Using Languages: Kevin Ng ’15{0}

Kevin is a fourth year student majoring in Mathematics who studied abroad in Jordan on a Fund for Education Abroad Scholarship at the Ali Baba International Center.

Summer 2013. My first time travelling to Jordan to study Arabic on a scholarship from the Fund for Education Abroad had me quite exhilarated. While I had studied Arabic in college and in high school, I had always wanted to immerse myself in an environment where I could fully engage with the culture and language. I realized that my language adventures started once I boarded my flight on the Royal Jordanian as I tried requesting food in Arabic and continued even before classes started.

My first week of navigating the culture of Amman was both challenging and rewarding. I met fellow students from all around the world, from Spain to Great Britain, and from South Korea to Japan. It was an International Studies Center, and it seems that many of us were curious, like I was, regarding how our stay would turn out. We tried haggling in some of the local stores on the way from school to try out the Arabic we learned before the program and found that some of us were better than others. Nonetheless, the storekeepers were more than happy to be patient with us, and we even engaged in conversation about where we came from and what we were doing here.

Some of my most interesting experiences came from conversing with Jordanians who wanted to ask about my own background. Some asked questions like, “Do you think Chinese is more difficult to learn than Arabic?” and others asked to take a photo with me wearing my kuffiyeh (headdress) since they had never seen an East Asian dressed in Arab garb in person. It is interesting to note that I learned about similarities between Jordanian culture and my own, though it did not surprise me too much since I was already familiar with the similarities between Collectivist cultures. I also had fun practicing my Spanish with a classmate from Spain.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience in Jordan, and I would be enthralled to make a return trip. The people were very hospitable and very open to conversation on a variety of topics; and, of course, one cannot dispute the deliciousness of Jordanian cuisines. The Arabic I learned, the conversations I had, and the culture I absorbed will be a part of my memory for a long time.