Sunday, May 13, 2012

"There is Meaning in Every Journey that is Unknown to the Traveller"

 -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    In the fall of my sophomore year my Arabic class went on a field trip to New York City.  We went to the Modern Museum of Art to see an Arabic art exhibit, eat some Middle Eastern food and try our skills at asking prices and buying things speaking in Arabic. After this we went to a small restaurant for coffee and hookah. I sat next to my professor, Yasir, and we smoked hookah and drank Turkish coffee discussing things (in English. let's be real here, I had only taken 2 semesters at that point!). I laughed with my TA from Kuwait about a cute waiter, learning how I could ask for his number in Arabic. At one point, my professor took my empty coffee mug and turned it over onto its saucer. Next he picked up the cup and showed me the grounds that had fallen into it. For those Harry Potter fans out there, no, what was there was not the Grim. It was just a bunch of coffee grounds. My professor in a very serious voice told me "You will be going on a very long journey". "Really?" I asked, and he said "Yes." I looked at him and asked him how he had learned to read coffee grounds, and he looked at me and said "I don't!" and started laughing hysterically at having pulled one over on me.
  It's been nine months (minus a brief interlude of Christmas break) since I embarked on my study abroad adventures. I've travelled across the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea.  I've travelled to the biblical sites of John the Baptist, and Moses on Mount Nebo. I've been to the magnificent Petra and seen the incredible wonders of Wadi Rum. I've gone rock climbing! I've seen the Jordan River and from the mountain of Um Quais seen Israel, Syria and Lebanon. From the gulf of Aqaba, to floating in the Dead Sea and snorkeling in the Red Sea with exotic fish and coral; I survived a camel's wrath and hunger. I've met some incredibly amazing people from all over the United States and Middle East. And I've gotten much better at Arabic since my initial taxi ride when I asked the driver how he was doing, and he just laughed.
   I think my coffee grounds were telling the truth, whether my professor knew it or not...
   My choice to go to Jordan was immediate from entering Fairfield and taking my first Arabic course, but I never imagined staying for the year. After some rough times sophomore year and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I had sort of a crisis and fear that maybe the Middle East wasn't my calling. So, what was I doing even thinking of studying abroad there? What if I got to Jordan, and realized that I hated Arabic? Or worse, that I loved it, but was horrible at it and would never be able to get past an initial conversation of hello!! These fears were real, and the questioning completely acceptable for a twenty year old girl worrying about her choices and her future! So when I learned that as an International Studies major I could study abroad for the year, I looked into some other areas of interest. I've always been interested in education, and after hearing some things about our Fairfield programs I decided on studying abroad in Amman Jordan in the Fall, and Dar Es Salaam Tanzania in the spring. The idea of studying abroad for the year and being away from my family for so long was terrifying! As was the idea of leaving the United States for the first time on my own. But I felt that after making such a decision, I owed it to myself and wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
  After arriving in Amman and spending my first three weeks here, I realized that my questioning of my passion for the Middle East while acceptable, was completely unfounded (alhumdulela!) Soon after I got here, it became apparent that I was not anywhere near acceptable at Arabic. Shortly after, the course booklet came out for Tanzania and I realized that none of the classes would work well with the requirements for my major. So I made the bold decision to apply to stay for the year in Jordan, a choice I am very thankful for having made. 
  My times abroad have been wonderful. I've learned so much--mostly about myself! I've definitely grown so much, and have a better understanding of myself, and I'm continuing to work hard at understanding and loving myself, my decisions, and my accomplishments. I've met some really incredibly amazing people, and I am so grateful for them and the role that they've played in my experience. I'm so grateful as well for the opportunities that I've had, and have really come to even better (if it was possible!) appreciate my Jesuit education background, especially in the sense of self-reflection, which I have done a lot of. I am also so incredibly grateful and lucky for the love and support of my amazing family who have been there for me through it all. I can't wait to reunite with them at last!!
   I know that readjusting to life won't be easy--I've heard so from friends who studied abroad in the fall and had to get ready for a new semester right away. I know I'll face these, and now realizing my changing ways, I'm actually looking forward to the challenge! ;) Knowing that I have such an amazing support network of friends and family makes this daunting idea a lot more bearable as well.
 I can't believe how fast a year has gone, and even more can't believe that when I come home I'll be entering my senior year at college! Thanks for sticking around and reading my blog entries all you faithful followers.
 But fear not! Clare's Abroad Adventures will continue, have no doubt. I've got the bug, and know that I have the ability and desire to travel to as many places and meet as many people as I can, and experience this amazing world that we live in. So until then this "correspondent" college student in the Middle East is signing off--leaving you to wonder, "Where's Clare?"

1 comment:

  1. You're a love! We're so proud of you and your willingness to take a big risk. I know this is but one chapter in the unfolding of your adult life. We are excited to see what comes next. Sounds like an evening of reflection at the fireplace on the stone wall with some marshmallows and perhaps a glass of wine might be in order. Hmm! Does wine go with marshmallows? Guess we'll have to give it a shot.