“Touring but not Tourists” by Farah Chowdhury

*Written previously*

The School for International Training turned out to be the perfect choice for me. The staff were welcoming, attentive, and passionate. Our academic director, Raed Al Tabini, would constantly remind us that we are “touring but not tourists” as we explored some of the governorates of the Hashemite Kingdom. In choosing a study abroad program, it’s clear that Jordan will not be your typical abroad experience. Despite the many opportunities to craft a typical western routine in Jordan including fancy malls, happy hours, and fine Italian cuisine there is so much to benefit from by saving those for the tourists; and hitting up some of the hole in the wall 70 cent falafel lunch spots. Here you’ll find the “real Jordan” if you will. Yet, in taking in these differences around me and explaining them to my friends back home, I kept circling back to the idea that Jordanians are not so different from us. They too, enjoy Italian food.

Throughout my college career I’ve worked to train myself to be knowledgeable about the Middle Eastern world in hopes of bridging the gaps in understanding and promote mutual respect between the two spheres. Jordan has become a great experience to share that served to debunk western misconceptions of the region. Here, you’ll be in a taxi to class passing many women in hijabs heading to work. On the other hand, you will find women opting to not wear a hijab heading to work, as well. Additionally, you’ll find men and women protesting and advocating for change alongside one another. These are just a handful of gender specific observations that provoke thought into what we think of when we think of the Middle East a lot of the time; oppressed women. That’s not to say that Jordan is entirely gender equal and to simplify a complex issue, but, it serves to poke holes in the superiority a lot of us have in our ideas of feminism on a global scale. Not only is it a complex a multi-faceted issue in the US, but, a complex and multi-faceted issue that manifests and progresses in different ways in Jordan and throughout the world.

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