Thursday, July 28, 2011

30 Days & Counting

Disclaimer: This is my very first blog, so please be gentle in criticizing/judging my 'blogging' skills; beware of potential grammatical errors; and ignore my terrible attempts to invoke humor. Other than that, enjoy! In'sha'Allah!

Hello friends!

Today is the official one month mark to my semester abroad, meaning that in 30 very short days I will be taking my last breath of that sweet, freedom filled American air and boarding a very long flight to my new home for 4 months, Amman, Jordan. And, well, seeing as the farthest from home I've ever been is California, that's a pretty big step.

While I would love to say that I've spent the better part of my 22 years traveling all around the world experiencing different sights, sounds, people, and cultures, my only real "cultured" encounters thus far have been with my foothill-living relatives in West Virginia and on two cruises, which let's face it, don't really count as a "worldly" experience seeing as you spend half the time in the buffet line.

Don't get me wrong, I am beyond blessed to have had the opportunity to travel all around the country to see many wonderful places with my family. However, its those places beyond the states and across the big pond, that I have anticipated and dreamed of traveling to the most.

I have been studying the Middle East and Arabic for 4 years now and have had the opportunity to work with many Middle Eastern military and diplomatic officials while living in DC, so in many ways I feel prepared to face the challenges abroad in the Arab world. The region has always fascinated and intrigued me, especially as a student growing up in post 9/11. The amount of independent and intertwining issues, which face the region as well as its influence on world politics is the bait which has me hooked. Jordan is the epicenter to the Arab region and its rapidly Westernizing society and reliance on American aid is incredible given its geographic place and population.

While abroad, I look forward to broadening my academic scope through cultural immersion, living with a host family, and the field research I will be conducting in Jordan and beyond. Most of all, however, I look forward to finally being able to put a face to the places, landscapes, and people I have long studied and gazed at in my textbooks. I'm beyond excited to immerse myself into a culture entirely different than my own and look forward to building bridges of understanding. I'm also excited to meet students from across the U.S. whose personal and professional aspirations and passions align with my own.

Until then, however, I have a lot to do and from what I've found, being physically prepared is a whole new ballgame compared to being mentally prepared.

I may have covered the basics of traveling overseas thus far (i.e. passport, flight travel books, etc.), however, there is still a lot to be done over the next month before leaving. For instance, I have the pleasure of visiting almost every known doctor in the Dayton area - from eye exams to yellow fever shots - as well as ensuring I have purchased nearly every toiletry known to man.

The endless amount Post It filled to-do lists are a fun, but daunting task to complete in a month, however, I'm ready to take on the next couple weeks of errands and chores. If nothing else, I'm thoroughly looking forward to hitting up every known fast food chain restaurant and ice cream place without feeling an ounce of guilt.

I will spend the next month anxiously awaiting August 28th, dreaming of my Indiana Jones-esque adventures (without the guns and Nazis) and praying for no Arab Spring part II.

I'm excited to be sharing my journey to the Middle East with you all and hope you will enjoy reading about it! I'll be blogging on behalf of the research grant I received, which helped fund my trip (thank you Benjamin A Gilman Scholarship and State Department!) as well as on behalf of my mom, who helped get me here and who, I'm sure, will cry all the way to the airport (I'll be fine Mom).

Counting down the days to Amman!!