My study abroad experience in Jordan

BA International Relations and Arabic student Zainab reflects on her year abroad, sharing her favourite memories of travelling and how immersing herself in Jordanian life improved her confidence and language skills. 

The chance to study abroad and immerse in new cultures has always been a dream of mine, so the opportunity to study Arabic at SOAS with a year abroad was one I simply couldn’t miss. Living in Jordan and travelling around the Middle East was a thrilling academic and cultural adventure and one that I will never forget.

Exploring the wonders of the world

Arriving in Jordan for the first time was both nerve-racking and exciting, but I soon settled in. It wasn't too far from the UK, so my friends and family were able to visit me. We got to not only explore the wonders of the world like Petra but also taste the delicacies of Jordanian cuisine like Mansaf and Makloubeh, camp under the stars in the desert in Wadi Rum and float in the Dead Sea. These are experiences I will never forget. 

"[I got to] taste the delicacies of Jordanian cuisine like Mansaf and Makloubeh, camp under the stars in the desert in Wadi Rum and float in the Dead Sea."

Arabic came to life 

Studying at Qasid Arabic Institute helped my language skills immensely. It is an internationally renowned institute affiliated with many UK and American universities. From day one, stepping into the classroom, we were encouraged to only speak in Arabic. 

We had classes every day in Modern Standard Arabic, Colloquial Dialect, Literature, Classical Arabic and Grammar, where we read and translated articles, listened to news clips, watched shows and debated with others, expanding our horizons. It was so much fun because it was the first time our Arabic came to life outside of only learning vocabulary and grammar. 

Two photos featuring a hand holding olives and a close up of a market stall.
Zainab's photo album: Picking olives in Irbid and visiting a market in Lebanon.

The best part of Qasid was its academic staff. The teachers were very encouraging, and they were experts in their field. They supported us in improving our ideas and pronunciation and guided us in how to think like an Arab so that we eventually became fluent in the language. I also met locals in coffee shops and had language exchange sessions where we practised Arabic, which was so enjoyable and helped me learn the language more informally.

Adventures outside the classroom

Our teachers also organised trips for us around the country and cultural sessions like traditional Jordanian dance classes (dabke) and olive picking in Irbid. Also, being at Qasid and in Jordan meant that I was not only able to make friends with other students from all over the world studying Arabic but also immerse myself with locals and build lifelong friendships through friends of others. 

This allowed me to immerse in the wider Jordanian community and do things which I would never have done before, such as attend a wedding in Jerash, go snorkelling in the Red Sea in Aqaba and go on a water hike with fish in Wadi Hammad.  

Two photos featuring a woman on a dock looking at the sunrise and a boy smiling next to a goat.
Zainab's photo album: By the sea and meeting locals.

Navigating the challenges of living abroad in a foreign country, understanding the local customs and traditions, and living with people I’d never met before helped me grow enormously. Struggling with the water scarcity in the region, the initial language barrier and homesickness, as well as the freezing cold months, I gained a greater appreciation for home and meeting people from various backgrounds, cultivated intercultural awareness and ignited within me an excitement for travelling.  

Participating in a year abroad as part of your degree is one of the most life-changing and enriching experiences. It’s an opportunity not to be missed, and I’d recommend it to everyone. 

About the author

Zainab Lakda is studying BA in International Relations and Arabic and working as a Student Ambassador at SOAS.