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A MENA Student Reflects on her Summer in Jordan

July 23, 2019

Hannah Brown is a double major in Journalism and Middle East and North African Studies at Northwestern. Below are her reflections on studying in Jordan in the  summer of 2018. (Above she appears in the Aljoun Castle. Located in the northwestern part of Jordan, it was one of the only Muslim castles that was not captured by the Crusaders. Its ruins are open to the public and part of the Hashemite Kingdom's network of sites committed to preserving the country's natural and historical sites.)


Studying in Jordan for the summer began as only a place to practice my Arabic. But the moment I stepped out of the confines of my familiar Northwestern classroom, I was thrown into a remarkable culture of contradictions.


The glaringly bright signs of familiar fast food chains interrupt the low, boxy skyline of a traditional Middle Eastern city. The divides of class and origin butted up against the deep, welcoming culture steeped in brotherhood. English, Arabic, and a host of other languages floated across cafes, streets and homes. Even these small day-to-day experiences exposed the rich and complicated culture I was situated in.


My time in Jordan allowed me to live amid a culture spattered across news headlines. It has provided me with a deeper clarity of understanding – to think more critically about the generalizations that are so easy to carve out of the often unfamiliar, diverse set of peoples. My experience in Jordan wasn’t always comfortable or easy, but from the unfamiliarity, I found a renewed sense of purpose in my MENA studies, as well as a deepened commitment to devoting my future to work in the region.


Hannah Brown is an incoming senior studying Journalism and Middle East and North African Studies at Northwestern. She serves on the executive board of the Northwestern Community for Human Rights, is an editor for the Northwestern News Network, and is a member of Alpha Phi.

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