Last summer, Hamilton Lugar School student Eden Rose Zaborowski decided to study abroad in Amman, Jordan with the Modern Arabic Language International Center (MALIC) to immerse herself in Arab culture and gain a firsthand understanding of the region she was studying. Zaborowski said she’s a “big believer that if you’re going to study a place, you need to try as much as possible to immerse yourself in the culture and learn about it directly from the source.” As a student of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, this experience significantly enhanced her understanding and conceptualization of the region.
While in Jordan, Zaborowski studied formal and dialectal Arabic. She was the only student from Indiana University in her program, and she believes this was an asset in being pushed out of her comfort zone and to speak Arabic in more situations. “There’s a big difference between speaking Arabic with your professor and speaking Arabic with a cab driver, who’s talking in dialect and maybe smoking a cigarette. In those situations, you’re speaking real Arabic. My comprehension and listening got a lot better because of those situations,” she explained.
Outside of the classroom, Zaborowski’s days were filled with chatting with local people, participating in cultural activities, and traveling to every corner of the country. She visited the Syrian border in the north, Red Sea in the south, the Dead Sea in the West, and villages on the Jordanian border with Saudi Arabia. Highlights included her visits to the Red Sea, Petra, and the Wadi Rum Desert. “Wadi Rum felt like being on another planet, which was incredible to see,” she said.
Zaborowski was in Jordan during the celebration of Eid Al-Adha, or the festival of sacrifice. Celebrations can last between two and four days, and it is common to slaughter and sacrifice animals. “There was a lot of animal slaughtering, which is not something you see every day in the U.S.,” she said. Because she traveled to a rural village for the celebration, she witnessed a more rustic and traditional form of Eid celebrations.
Zaborowski’s perspectives on political issues in the Middle East shifted drastically after living there and having the opportunity to converse with locals in their native language. She felt these conversations to be extremely impactful as to what she is studying at Hamilton Lugar. “I lived in an area with hardly any expats, thus I was talking with local people and getting real, common opinions,” she said. “That really helped me, especially with a focus in international relations. It helps to know what people actually think of issues rather than what we perceive their thoughts to be.”
Zaborowski is currently a junior at the Hamilton Lugar School from Colombus, Indiana double majoring in International Studies and Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures. She is a member of the Arabic Flagship Program and current intern at the U.S. Department of State. After graduation, she hopes to continue working for the State Department or to travel to Morocco with the Peace Corps.