February 22nd, 2012
UALR Programs Abroad is excited to announce its first Programs Abroad Student Spotlight, Sarah Dunlap. Sarah is a Senior History Major and Middle Eastern Studies Minor. While she is looking forward to her upcoming graduation, before she walks across the stage to receive her diploma, she will study abroad one more time!
I come from a family of six children, and interestingly enough one of my younger sisters got me interested in learning Arabic. Little did I know that I would soon be traveling alone, across the world to Jordan to take intensive Arabic language courses. Last summer I had an experience that was absolutely life-changing! It was my first time to travel alone, so I was excited yet very nervous. At first it was easy for me to notice the difference in cultures, but as time passed I began to realize that the little things in daily life were not so different from the U.S. and frankly did not matter. It was not long into the trip when I realized that family is very important to the Jordanians, which was something very familiar to me.
The eight-week intensive Arabic classes at the University of Jordan began, and this is where I really started to interact and engage the Arabic language. Not only was I learning a language, but I was learning the culture of a unique country among many other students from around the world. As I put my skills to the test outside of the classroom, my biggest obstacle was the language barrier. I quickly learned that in order for to learn the most Arabic while I was abroad, I had to be willing to take the steps to go out and practice. When I did, I found that my Arabic improved quickly!
By the end of the study abroad trip, I was really sad to go home. I had not yet reached a point of “home-sickness” and was not looking forward to leaving my new friends behind. It was much harder coming back to the U.S. and coming back to the American culture, than going to Jordan and adopting their culture.
Although I had previously had an interest in the Middle East, this trip abroad confirmed my plans for a long-term career goal focused on the Middle East. As graduation approaches I am in the process of applying for several Middle Eastern Studies Graduate school programs.
I am currently looking forward to returning to Jordan this summer for more intensive Arabic courses. This time I am not nervous but happy, and glad that my husband will be joining for a visit during my studies.
As a two-time recipient of the UALR Middle Eastern Studies Grant, I strongly encourage Middle Eastern Studies students to apply and take advantage of the opportunity to study a new culture. If you are interested in learning more about my trip abroad, or the UALR Middle Eastern Studies please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org