25 September 2018
SOAS University of London students recently visited Jordan for a unique cultural exchange experience as part of a London Middle East Institute and Al-Sadi Changing Lives programme.
The group of students, who formed the third cohort of SOAS undergraduates to visit Amman under this initiative, were able to immerse themselves in a Middle Eastern society and culture over a week.
Activities ranged from visits to historical sites which demonstrate the complexities of Jordan's past to activities at development projects and community initiatives that seek to address some of the contemporary challenges facing Jordan and the countries in the region.
This cultural exchange programme is generously supported by the Iraqi philanthropist Dr Majid Al-Sadi. By giving the SOAS students an opportunity to engage with the individuals who deliver these cultural activities and programmes, the programme provided an in-depth experience, encouraging students to deepen their understanding of the Middle East, and challenge common stereotypes of the region.
This year SOAS students were also joined by students from the University of Babylon in Central Iraq with whom our students could share their experience of Jordan.
Hammaad Rehman, who participated in the programme in April, said: "The LMEI trip to Jordan was one of the best experiences of my life. Visiting Jordan and the Middle East had been a dream for years ... it was definitely the highlight of my degree."
Yoonsong Choi, currently studying International Relations and History at SOAS said: "I was so lucky to be in the Changing Lives programme! It was amazing that I could talk with people from Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Palestine and share our experiences. I definitely recommend this programme."
Director of the London Middle East Institute Dr Hassan Hakimian said: “We are grateful to Dr Al-Sadi and the Changing Lives programme for their funding and logistical support, which enables our students to gain first-hand and practical experience of our region. We know from our experiences that the visit will have a profound impact on their understanding and future outlook.”
A formal dinner at the Grand Millennium Hotel in Amman rounded off the activities in the penultimate evening. The dinner in honour of SOAS was hosted by Dr Al-Sadi and attended by HRH Princess Wijdan bint Fawaz Al-Hashemi, a distinguished SOAS alumna and Honorary Fellow.
The relationship between LMEI and the Changing Lives programme has continued to strengthen since the first group of SOAS students visited Amman in August 2017. The organisations have worked together to enhance the experience and are planning to take the next group of students to Amman in September 2019. Further details will be available on the LMEI webpages.