Wow, I can't believe this wonderful experience at Oxford has come to an end 🙁 As a creative writer who loves literature and history, I'm really sad to leave a place that holds so much significance. Never mind that thousands of famous faces have sat under the same ornate ceiling of the Radcliffe Camera. I walked pass the lamp-post C.S. Lewis walked by and inspired the Chronicles of Narnia, and I visited in the same pub the Inklings discussed their stories at. My friend even had the luxury of having class in J.R.R. Tolkien's old office!
During my time I enjoyed visiting the little English villages and big palaces and castles, especially places with special literary significance. My all-time favorite trip has to be to Haworth, a tiny village in Northern England by Leeds and York. It's the village where the Bronte sisters grew up and produced their great novels. I ventured there for a couple days with a friend who was a hard-core Bronte fan.
It took a while to get there. We took a train from Oxford to London, switched to another London station, took a train to Leeds, navigated through the local train system and ended up in a village called Kheighly, and then finally rode the "Bronte Bus" until we reached Haworth. I know it seems long and grueling, but I actually enjoyed the journey. We got to travel through lands that contained crumbled factories and mills - remnants of the North's Industrial past. Haworth was such a small village that it mainly consisted of one long street. And I loved its washed-out stone buildings and flower pots.
Wow, I can’t believe that this course is already halfway over! The Oxford term is winding down to its final week, and then I have to write a seminar essay and a 6,000 word research paper. We only have four hours of class a week, so I spend most of my time in the libraries working on my weekly 5-9 page essays or exploring Oxford. I’ve worked through many of the routes and shortcuts I use on the daily, and I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore with getting the layout of the city. I guess you could say that I have finally made Oxford my home. Here are the places in Oxford where I spend most of my days.
I’m sure almost every GW student has been asked this question at least once. Sure, everyone wants to know where you’ve grown up and where you call home. But they really care about where you’re from from. It’s like when you have to check those boxes on questionnaires to say whether you’re Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, or Latino.
My response? “My mom’s from India and my dad’s from Pakistan. But I’m 100% Muslim.” But growing up, the answer wasn’t so simple.
Before, when someone asked me where my family's from, I’d say Pakistan. Sometimes I wanted to say India because it’s easier, but then they’d think I’m Hindu. But was I lying to people if I didn’t include every part of my identity that composes who I am?
It’s definitely been complicated to really hone in how I share my identity with other people. Though I’m just starting to find a healthy balance between my ethnic identities, my Muslim identity is the strongest. To me, my Muslim identity matters more than the country I hail from.
I’m a Muslim girl who grew up in an American suburb. I’ve lived in America my whole life, but my parents have always kept the religion and culture of my ancestral home alive. It’s a result of colonization, globalization, and diaspora. I contribute it to a sense of longing and connection to the homeland. Is my established homeland America (where I was born) or Pakistan and India (where my culture and parents’ families are from)?
With less than a month until my program in Jordan begins, my anxiety has reached its’ peak. So much to do prepare and plan for; I find myself avoiding my first post for fear that I will sound too formal or too anxious or too idealist or digressing in getting to my point—which I have already done.
I have been studying Arabic for three years now and the Middlebury Program at the University of Jordan will advance my Arabic. If you haven’t heard of the Middlebury Program let me give you an idea of how intense this language program can be. A friend of mine went to the Middlebury campus in Vermont over the summer after one semester of French and never really being able to learn a language and came out speaking fluent French. My program is a little different. I will be living with a host family in Amman, taking four classes entirely in Arabic, and signing a language pledge that says I will only speak, think, read, and write in Arabic. For the next five months I will be eating, sleeping, living, and breathing completely, 100% in Arabic.
In order to brace myself for what is to come in two weeks and three days I have made the following preparations. First, I have been reviewing my Arabic vocab and grammar so I can place into the proper level for my placement test. Second, I have downloaded an Arabic language pack on my computer so I can type in Arabic. This was preceded by making my own stickers to put on my keys in order to learn the Arabic keyboard. Finally, I have taken the initiative to read news about Jordan in both English and in Arabic in order to keep up with current events.
In addition to the language classes, I am also anxious and excited to live for five months in an Arabic speaking country. I realize Jordan is probably not the most westernized country there is to study abroad in; therefore, there will be challenges to overcome. As a side note, I am currently writing to you from the comfort of my friend’s family’s house in Madrid, Spain. I’ve know them since I was 12 when I came to visit in the summer and this is my fifth trip back to Spain to visit. Like most of Europe, Spain is modernized there is always some form of transportation to get around, walking around is very easy and safe, and there is little in the way—for me—of a language barrier. Going from Spain to Jordan maybe like jumping into a pool of ice cold water, where transportation isn’t as simple, walking around my neighborhood may not be safe to do alone, and I have yet to learn conversational Arabic. These challenges differ from the challenges of my classes as they are more difficult to prepare for because until I arrive in Jordan I don’t like to have expectations. I only have one, which is to expect the unexpected.
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