As a participant in the Critical Language Scholarship program in Amman, Jordan, this summer, Beckie Bull '20 spent four hours each day, five days a week, honing her Arabic language skills.
“The program was extremely intensive and I learned an incredible amount of Arabic,” says Beckie, who is double majoring in Linguistics and French (enrolled in the B.A./M.A. program).
And while she relished the opportunity to learn so much, Beckie says it’s the experiences outside of the classroom she’ll cherish most.
“I lived with a retired Jordanian woman, along with one other American student in the program. Her apartment was about 10 minutes by Uber or taxi from our language center. She cooked delicious meals for us (and wonderfully accommodated the fact that I am vegetarian), taught us how to cook Jordanian meals, corrected the things we said in Arabic dialect, and took us to museums and markets when we had free weekends. This home stay was an absolutely wonderful experience—our host mother was so kind and amazing!”
In the evenings Beckie and her housemate would go into the center of the city of Amman to go to cafés, get falafel sandwiches or shawarma from little shops, or wander through the handicrafts market on Friday nights. She also went to a few services at a nearby church.
“Trying to sing songs I didn’t know in Arabic was definitely a challenge, even with the words projected at the front of the room!”
The pair also joined the Amman Walking Group, finding themselves joining in with hundreds of other people to speedwalk through the ancient city’s streets.
There were several weekend trips organized through the program to important sites in Jordan including Mount Nebo, the Dead Sea, Petra, and Wadi Rum. Beckie and the rest of the group also got to stay overnight in a camp in the desert.
“At sunset, we climbed a rock behind the camp, and watched the light change and the sand turn orange, and the long shadows of craggy rocks. Sunset in the desert is one of my favorite things in Jordan, only topped perhaps by the million stars that come out afterwards. I walked out in the desert with a friend, and we lay in the sand and stargazed, and I saw my first shooting star!”
Beckie, who also speaks French, hopes to be an interpreter and has already done some translation work with an organization in Philly that helps refugees and asylum seekers with job seeking, English classes, legal help, and in other ways. She’s currently looking at graduate schools, fellowships, and job opportunities.
While she calls Burlington, Vt., home, Beckie has family in several different countries, the most in her father’s home of England. When she was 12, her family took an around-the-world trip. As a high school student she participated in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which was also based in Amman.
“I have been so lucky to have had so many opportunities to travel already, and I definitely hope to visit more places or come back to ones that I have loved.”