Marhaban! My name is Sean and I am a senior at Central Michigan University, studying International Relations/Comparative Politics with an emphasis on the Middle East. I am about to embark on a semester in Amman, Jordan where I am excited to put my mediocre orienteering prowess and basic Arabic skills to work.



I have been out of the United States for over two months now, and there is less than two months left of this phenomenal experience. I have noticed transformations in myself, and the way that I approach cultural and political differences.

Talking to people with contrasting views from mine has made me reevaluate how I think, and my perceptions of the Middle East. I have learned to embrace change, and go into every event with an open mind. Things here are so different from the states; I am still baffled by them daily.

The states are sheltered from the true happenings of this region; the media only represents the negative events that occur here, and fail to point out the development, and positive changes. The media that surrounds our daily lives influence the way we think and our perceptions of the world, which can be counterproductive towards cultural competency.

An article written by Juan Cole, “The Arab World’s Fourths of July”, presents a very good comparison between our own revolution, and the ones that are happening in the Middle East. This is a good reflection on a country's path towards liberty and independence.

It feels like I left my family and friends years ago, however, it also feels like I've been abroad for only a week.  I miss my home, family, and friends, but there is so much to learn, see, and experience in the world.

Someone I respect and love greatly told me before I left the states “Find the similarities, and respect the differences”; this has been my motto going into every day. 


My Excuse for Not Blogging in 3 Weeks

These past three weeks have been a hectic, enjoyable time. It started off with a trip to the Dead sea, then to biblical Jordan; including Mt. Nebo and the spot where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, followed by a week of midterms, and ended with a trip to Israel.

Biblical Jordan was amazing. I grew up hearing these stories from the bible, and this past week I was able to see where they took place. It is shocking to think how long ago these stories happened, and how much the world has changed since that time.

Midterms here were just like midterms in the States; the same stress, the same amount of work, and the same self-questioning: “Why didn't I start studying/writing this paper earlier?!” However, this time the light at the end of the tunnel wasn't the usual one in the States, but it was a trip to Israel/Palestine.

Myself and three fellow study abroad students, which I met here, went to Israel for 6 days and 5 nights during mid-semester break this past week. This trip was educational, relaxing, and a good opportunity to see the differences between an Israeli state and an Arab state.

Our first stop was the Israel/Jordan border (King Hussein/Allenby Bridge). We only had minor difficulties here. We arrived at the border crossing very earlier in the morning, so it took us (comparatively) no time to get into Israel. For some people we talked to later it took over 5 hours to cross the border.

Once in Israel, we spent our first two nights in Jerusalem; exploring the old city, retracing the steps where Jesus carried the cross, and visiting the West Bank. I was at the location where religions have clashed, conquered, and been conquered throughout the centuries.  Jerusalem is the most religiously diverse place that I have ever visited. The history of this area of the world, and the contemporary issues that surround it, are continuously present while traveling through this region, talking to the people, and seeing it visually.

When I thought that my brain couldn't think, compare, contrast, or reflect anymore, I arrived in the West Bank/Palestine. We first went to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity, which was interesting. However, it was the border between, and the separation wall which spoke volumes about where we were, and that was only the entrance into the West Bank.

The next few days were spent in Tel-Aviv meandering on the beach, and trying to process the experiences of the previous days. Here, I felt like I was back in the States, with modern amenities, crosswalks, and American food. This was nice at first, but I soon found myself missing the hectic lifestyle of Amman and speaking Arabic.

Our last day was spent in Haifa. Haifa is a quiet, quaint city, which is a nice contrast to Tel-Aviv. This was the perfect way to complete this Israeli adventure. (Pictures!)


Cultural Competency

When I told people that I was studying abroad in Jordan, their first responses were “Why would you want to go there?” “ Isn't that dangerous?” “ You're traveling to the Middle East?!” “It was nice knowing you!”

At the time I didn't have a good response because it was impossible to give a complete explanation for my reasons in a brief encounter. In this post I want to expand on why I chose to study abroad, and how I selected this region of the world.

Since freshman year I knew that I wanted to study abroad. Everyone who I spoke to about their experiences abroad would fill my mind with adventures, and opportunities of a lifetime. They described these instances as the pinnacle of their college career. It was from this a seed grew; it was an ambition that pestered my mind. I knew that my undergraduate education would feel inadequate without taking advantage of this opportunity. It was with this catalyst that I began the extensive process to live and study abroad.

The Middle East has been dominating the headlines in the past century, and is an area of the world that most Americans are inexperienced and unfamiliar with. It was this uncertainty that encouraged me to take a class about the Middle East and Islam. From this class I became fascinated with the history, diversity, and complexity of this region and I wanted to learn more. What better way to learn than literally being right in the middle of everything happening.

When deciding where I wanted to study abroad, picking the Middle East was the obvious choice and choosing Jordan was more obvious. If you look at a map of Jordan it borders or is close to, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. It has one of the best universities in the Middle East, and it is centrally located between these countries of interest.

I have learned so much about Jordan and the Middle East in my one month here, but I know that this is just the beginning of a long progression to truly comprehend the language, culture, and politics of this region, and I look forward to traveling down this lengthy road.

I haven't even left here, and I am already anticipating coming back.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Mark Twain (Innocents abroad).


The Weekend

Hiking, walking, exploring, swimming, camping, rock climbing, adventuring, camel riding, snorkeling, inadequate sleeping are just a few words to summarize the weekend I just lived. 

This expedition took me to Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and Petra, all located in Southern Jordan.  I am still trying to quantify the magnitude of the trip I just partook in; I can’t fully comprehend it because I am still in a state of awe.  

Each place brought with it its own exceptional qualities, and adventure.

Wadi Rum

The first day we left Amman in the early morning, heading to Wadi Rum, full of excitement and anticipation. Then our bus broke down in the middle of the desert, which gave us the opportunity to play some soccer.  An hour and a half later we were back on the road! We started driving and less than a mile away we were stopped by a substantial traffic backup. 30 minutes passed, and we were able to make a U-turn and head down a different road towards Wadi Rum.

Upon arrival, we had a quick dinner and then the true beginning of the expedition began. We took 4x4s out into the dessert, and made a couple stops at some magnificent viewpoints. Our next stop was at a camp at which we transferred over to camels for the final leg of the day’s journey. The final stop was at our campsite, where we could watch the sunset over the desert horizon. A beautiful ending to a beautiful day. Wadi Rum Pictures!


The following morning we departed for Aqaba, where the Red Sea is located. This was the first time that we could clearly see Israel! At Aqaba we spent the day on the Red Sea, snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on a boat. The unique thing about the Red Sea is how salty it is, which made for a rough time snorkeling, but nonetheless it was a great experience because we were able to see coral, many different species of fish, eels, and lobsters.

At the end of our time at Aqaba, we left for Petra, where we were going to sleep for the night. Aqaba Pictures!


Established 312 BC.

Petra was the highlight, and the climax of the trip. This was the day that I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. It was amazing to see how this ancient city, carved out of stone, was still prevalent today. We were able to see the tombs of ancient ancestors, the great Petra Treasury, and countless other priceless historical places.

The diverse architecture and art represented different times in history and people, along with the different civilizations that have governed them. Whether you looked up, down, or to the side, there was always something magnificent to see.

In this day we walked well over 6 miles, along with climbing roughly 800 stairs up to the Monastery and Mountain View points. It didn’t end there however, a friend and I went off the beaten path, up between the mountain and the monastery, where after a rough climb, we ended up on top of the Monastery. It’s rare to find me speechless, but at this moment I was.

We then headed back down the mountain, where at the base of it we decided that taking a camel the rest of the way would benefit our exhausted bodies immensely. It was worth every piaster.

The aching of Monday morning is a subtle reminder of the weekend I just lived.


Football (soccer) match!

Jordan vs. Australia.

I went to my first football match yesterday, and it was a very different, very unique experience. This is coming from an avid Lions fan, and experienced NFL game goer. The atmosphere around the King Abdullah  Stadium was energizing, and deafening. When I first approached the stadium, I asked my friend's host brother if the game had already started because of how loud the cheering was, he replied that it still had an hour until it began, I was bewildered.

Jordan ended up coming through in the second half with the win, 2-1.

The entire city erupted after this win, it was like they just won the game of the century.

I am still in the first week of my internship and classes. Everything is going smoothly, and I am really enjoying my time here in Amman.

For more pictures from the football match, click here!


أسرة جديد

I've been living in Amman for a week now, and have had so many new experiences and challenges that it is impossible to document them all here. However, some of the more memorable, important things that have happened in my first week here, is moving in with my host family, getting my semester schedule, and learning the importance of Arabic.

My host family consists of a family of four, a mother, father, and two sons. Both sons are around my age and have been exceptional hosts and translators since I’ve arrived here early this past week. The mother doesn’t speak any English, but is fluent in Arabic and Russian. The father is fluent in Arabic and knows a little bit of English. Both sons are fluent in Arabic and their English is the best in the family, which has been helpful with communication. Language barriers can become difficult and frustrating sometimes; but my experience with this family has been a great comical learning experience.

Professors always talk about the practical use of the material that they are teaching, and usually students ignore it, now I know what they are talking about. I’ve had to pull out all my basic Arabic knowledge to communicate what I want to eat, drink, and do. Communicating with my host family appears easy when I’m out on the street of Amman attempting to navigate myself to and from places. It has been an adventure full of failures and successes, but most importantly learning opportunities.

Semester schedule: I have four classes, 15 credits this semester. Nine credits of which are Arabic language classes, and the final six credits consists of two classes; The Middle East: Alternative Perspectives, and Environment and the Politics of Water.