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Oh, the places you'll go! (Jordan and Italy)

human interest




Oh, the places you'll go! (Jordan and Italy)

The chronicles of Duke students around the globe

Nelia Ekeji


Duke's status as a global-oriented university is fitting, given that the school currently boasts over 150 study-abroad programs across six continents. Over 40 of the programs are Duke-In programs, where students get the familiarity of Duke's rigor and resources in settings outside of Durham. The various other programs are affiliated with a number of prestigious universities such as Oxford, Vanderbilt, and Princeton.

For juniors Marivi Howell-Arza and Josh Gabay, language immersion was central to their abroad experience: Marivi and Josh studied Arabic and Italian, respectively, in the fall, and adopted more than just a knack for the languages during their semesters away.

Marivi Howell-Arza

Year: Class of 2019
Major(s), minor(s), and/or certificate(s): Arabic major and Chemistry and Global Health minors
Where you studied abroad: Amman, Jordan, through Middlebury
Highlights of studying abroad: For me, the highlights of studying abroad were the complete language and cultural immersion, getting to live with an amazing host family, and riding camels with Bedouins!
Difficulties of studying abroad: Even though the language immersion was one of my favorite things about studying abroad, the barrier was also one of my biggest difficulties. That, and managing finances: financial stability was one of my concerns, given that I was studying abroad on my own.
Biggest cultural differences between the U.S. and Jordan: People in Jordan are just generally much friendlier to strangers thanks to their culture of hospitality. Religion is extremely central to aspects of everyday life more than in the U.S. And no one is EVER on time for anything!
Best places to visit in Amman: Wadi Rum, which is a desert that has gorgeous mountains and wildlife. And then Wast al-Balad, this cool urban hub in downtown Amman.
Anything else you want us to know? Jordan. Is. Safe. I don't know how many times I've had to explain that to people. I honestly felt much safer there than I do in the US sometimes. Not only is it safe, the people there are some of the warmest, funniest, and most resilient people you will ever meet. And unlike some places in Europe, they find even the most incomprehensible attempts to speak Arabic by a foreigner charming. I absolutely loved living there and hope to go back for a couple of years after graduating and before grad school.

Josh Gabay

Year: Class of 2019
Major(s), minor(s), and/or certificate(s): Cultural Anthropology major and Innovation & Entrepreneurship certificate
Where you studied abroad: Rome, Italy, through the Temple University Rome program
Highlights of studying abroad: I enjoyed speaking the Italian language with the locals. It pushed me to get to know where I would be living for four months, and I was able to gain respect from Italians.
Difficulties of studying abroad: It took time to adjust to how different people travel. People have different travel itineraries and different means of getting there. Learning to adapt to those differences took some time.
Biggest cultural differences between the U.S. and Italy: The work style in Italy is more lax than in the United States. Requesting information for my internship took at least two weeks for a response. I also had to understand the hand gestures used during conversation. Eventually, hand gestures were used naturally to express what I wanted to say.
Best places to visit in Rome: I actually ended up doing a lot of traveling outside of Italy. I enjoyed hiking the Swiss Alps near Lucerne, Switzerland. There is something about the nature that is simply breathtaking. It was quite an accomplishment to hike Rigi Kulm with eight others and to keep climbing. We did not expect to do that, yet most of the travel experiences had been adventures at the spur of the moment. Within Italy, though, I really enjoyed visiting smaller towns, such as Siena, Assisi, and Modena. They each have their unique identity that made those experiences special with the people I was traveling with.
Anything else you want us to know? I didn't know this, so I think most people will be surprised by it, too: chicken parmesan and spaghetti with meatballs aren't traditionally Italian dishes. They are Americanized.