Student safety is ISA’s number one priority when sending students abroad. Recent events in the Middle East have sparked some commonly asked questions and concerns by students, parents and advisors, who are interested in study or service-learning programs with ISA in Jordan. ISA’s U.S. staff and, most specifically, Department of Health, Safety and Security, continuously monitor each country in which ISA has programs to stay abreast of the security climate in each program city; this includes monitoring the advisories by the U.S. Government and Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).
By staying informed of current and on-going events through on-site staff, international advisors and news, we have a good understanding of the current environment and would like to address three of the most common myths about studying in Jordan. In addition, we also asked former ISA Jordan students about their experiences and to speak to some of these common concerns.
Myth #1- Americans don’t feel welcome in Jordan.
Reality – The overall climate towards Americans within Jordan remains positive and students in Amman report feeling secure and enjoys their experience. In fact, Jordanians largely disagree with, and support action being taken against, groups with extremist ideology.
Jordanians are incredibly hospitable people. It’s not uncommon for Jordanians to befriend travelers and invite them into their home to share meals and meet their family. ISA students often make friends with Jordanian students, language partners and/or other peers they meet in the city, and many remain friends long after they leave Jordan. Jordanian students and peers of ISA students are very interested in exchanging ideals, knowledge and language with Americans. Jordanians value making friendships just as ISA students do.
“Jordan is an incredible place to study abroad for its historical, political, and cultural significance in the Middle East. The people are very welcoming and friendly. I feel safe and I have learned a lot inside and outside the classroom that has made me become a better person and student.”
– David, Fall 2014
Myth #2- Jordan just isn’t safe right now.
Reality – Geographically speaking, Jordan is surrounded by political unrest; however, day to day activity within Jordan has been largely unaffected. While Jordanians continue to intently follow the news in countries throughout the surrounding region, there is an increased sense of distance between Jordanians and the conflicts going on throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Jordanians are voicing strong criticism via social media outlets which reveals consistent opposition to the violence and the Islamic State’s agenda in the region.
ISA Jordan’s Resident Director attends OSAC Country Council meetings in Amman to stay informed of the security situation and how it may impact the private sector. The report from those meetings has regularly affirmed the safety and stability of Jordan despite the surrounding environment of the region.
“One of the first questions many people ask when I tell them I’m studying in Amman is, “Is it safe?” While I have some personal beliefs that lead me to think sometimes we should be placing ourselves in more testing situations to truly experience the faithfulness of God; the quick answer is Jordan has a history of being a very stable country. Politically, it is seen as “middle-ground” country and hosts a number of refugees from its neighboring nations. Safety is the number one priority for (ISA) and they would never put us in a situation where they felt there was a serious threat to our well-being.”
– Chris, Fall 2014
“Jordan IS safe. It is common to group all Middle Eastern countries together when we hear about the violence and upheaval going on there right now, but that is unfair. Jordan is so safe that some locals are frustrated with the bubble-like feel the country has. Many students in my group went in smaller groups all over the country to do some sightseeing by themselves. I never once felt threatened or unsafe. My roommates and I often went out at night, shopped, and talked to locals. ISA’s top priority really is to keep you safe. They have some strict rules, but they’re for the best, and require you to keep an ISA-issued cell phone charged and on you at all times if they have to reach you. The entire staff is always ready to help no matter the time.”
– Sarah, Fall 2014
“Experiencing a unique and different culture such as Jordan is an amazing and perspective-altering experience. Gaining firsthand knowledge about a severely misunderstood region and learning to live in it is truly an unforgettable and beneficial life achievement.”
– Alexander, Fall 2014
Myth #3- It’s unsafe to be a female traveler in Jordan.
Reality- While there are some aspects of Middle Eastern culture that differ from Western culture, as it pertains to female travelers, most female students understand and expect this even before they decide to apply to a program in Jordan, and are excited and anticipate this challenge.
ISA is dedicated to ensuring that female students are equipped and aware of how to thrive in Jordan as a female traveler. Students are invited to pre-departure webinar sessions where topics such as how to dress, act, and adapt to the new culture are discussed. Jordan Site Specialist, Cori Cummings, leads the webinar and has lived in Amman and has personal experience being a female traveler in the Middle East. Students are encouraged to ask questions and to reference their Online Orientation materials prior to departure.
Once on-site, students go through an extensive multi-day orientation called the Bridging Cultures Program (BCP) where they learn how to successfully navigate the city, the culture and the university norms.
“I had the same concern before I traveled to Jordan, but once I arrived there, I was struck by just how many strong, independently minded, and intelligent women there were, veiled or unveiled. As a woman, I was at first frustrated with the constant male attention, but it soon became funny and my friends and I would laugh it off. More often than not, men were kind to us and helpful.”
– Sarah, Fall 2014
“The knowledge, cultural awareness, personal growth and overall independence that I gained from my ISA program is something I would have never learned in small-town South Dakota. ISA is such a great program and I would recommend it to anyone that is looking to gain a great experience while abroad.”
– Amanda, Summer 2014