Hi, my name is Jacquelyn, I am 4’9ft, female, 17 and traveling to the Middle East for a month. Strangely enough, my parents were not the only ones freaking out about my summer plans—so were my acquaintances and colleagues. I do not blame them for their biases after all our US curriculums only focus on our country. Needless to say that ignorance results in stereotypes and misconceptions. Fortunately, I was going into Jordan with an open mind thanks to a prior summer experience where I had a Lebanese roommate: Dana—a best friend. We are all so different yet so similar at the same time. At first, I would have never thought that the boy with the black hoodie, the girl with the blue eyes, and the rest of the strangers I met, at the crowded JFK airport, would develop such profound bonds. One would assume that we only learned from this foreign country but that is far from the truth because the experimenters came from all walks of life and from completely different states. Standing before my peers at the vibrant farewell dinner was the first time it hit: this experience is concluding.

One of the shocking discoveries I had on this trip consisted of the insane amount of stray animals flooding the streets. This issue was not that alarming until I passed by a corpse of a cat on the road. Where I am from, Sonoma, we have a shelter but it is a kill-free shelter. Stray cats are not at all prevailing in our city. Alongside the stray animal issue, was the water crisis.

Coming out of a drought in California, I had a deeper level of understanding for this country. In California, we had laws regulating the consumption of water but in Jordan it’s people cannot even consume their own tap water. Fortunately, my host family has filters, but what about those who can barely afford to live due to the extremely low salaries and the low employment rate? Out of the whole program, my favorite part was the portion focused on human rights and politics.

Standing in front of Petra and looking around at the crowds of sunburned tourists, I realized how big this world truly is.

With regards to the Arabic lessons, they were amazing. Having a special disability was definitely a challenge as I had to work twice as hard but the teachers were able to teach me regardless of my disabilities. Being skeptical at learning a language with this barrier was quickly diminished once I stepped into the classes of these talented instructors. I truly wish American instructors could be as loud, happy, energetic, and supportive as our Arabic teachers were. Overall, I will always be thankful to the Experiment for this life-changing experience.