Kristin Chase recently graduated from Oregon State University with degrees in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and International Studies and an Anthropology minor. Kristin recently returned from Amman, Jordan where she studied Arabic through the SIT: Intensive Arabic Language Studies program. Additionally, Kristin interned at Ruwwad: The Arab Foundation for Sustainable Development through IE3 Global Internships.
I returned about a month ago from spending five amazing months in Jordan. While abroad I had the opportunity to build upon my Arabic language education, as well as apply my research skills and passion for social justice. Since OSU only offers second year Arabic courses online, it was imperative that I go abroad in order to continue working towards my goal of becoming fluent. I chose to study through SIT because they offer a seven-week intensive language program in the summer. I wanted a program that was focused on language and had a homestay component. I lived with a middle class- Palestinian family who spoke fluent English, but also spoke Arabic with me. I was able to experience Ramadan in a family setting and learn more about Jordanian life from the perspective of a particular class in society. The program was also a good fit for me because we took many excursions that allowed students to understand more about the country’s culture and history. My favorite part of the SIT program was the Bedouin homestay experience. I had such a sweet family and I went back to visit them for a week after the program ended. Not only did my host family treat me as one of their own, but I also quickly became close with many members of the village. Overall, it was great starting out with a structured program as it provided a smooth transition into Jordanian society.
After completing the language program, I started a three-month internship with Ruwwad, an organization based on community and youth empowerment that hosts many sustainable programs to benefit the local people. I chose this particular internship because of the organization’s focus on women and gender equality. Ruwwad allowed me to merge my interests in, and apply my skills related to, women’s issues, Arabic language and culture, and research writing. I wouldn’t do the organization justice by trying to describe all of the incredible work they do, so I will focus on my particular projects. Since I am a Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies major, I knew I wanted to focus my efforts on something that would benefit women. Therefore, I taught women’s English classes (which were content based) that allowed me to develop relationships with many women in the community. My conservative dress and knowledge of Islam made me quickly accepted by the female students and their family members. Reputation is extremely important in such a community. The classes provided opportunities for the students and I to speak about clothing and modesty, gender roles, the Arab spring and other political issues, leadership and community involvement, as well as the media. Every day was such a pleasure because the women were really funny and opinionated and I enjoyed watching them express themselves as they became more comfortable in class. Our conversations gave me a deeper understanding of the power issues women face in their particular community, which helped shape the other component of my internship. I developed a conscious building module that Ruwwad will translate into Arabic and implement over the next few months. I am really excited about this and think Ruwwad is a model social justice organization. I feel so blessed to have been selected to intern for them.
While completing my internship, I lived in an apartment with a British woman who worked as a refugee activist. It was really nice to live with someone who shared similar passions and could relate to being a woman abroad. Living in a new environment, particularly the Middle East, has a lot of negative stereotypes attached to it—especially if you’re a woman. However, I highly recommend it! I found that in general, because of my respect for the local customs and interest in the language, culture, and religious dynamics, most families and women accepted me and treated me as family. Jordan, and some neighboring countries, I would argue, are much safer than reported by the media. Moving somewhere new with such a complex and fascinating culture forced me to rely on myself and become more competent, not only in navigating new geographical spaces, but also in understanding sociocultural dynamics, my own identity, and other people. I have become so much more confident and grown into myself by embarking on this journey and I am beyond blessed to have had this opportunity. I can’t wait to go back!