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Pursuit of Arabic in Jordan offers many int’l students refuge from pandemic fatigue

By Jocelyn Chau - Jan 17,2022 - Last updated at Jan 17,2022

Representative image by Amjad Ghsoun

AMMAN — The COVID pandemic has not deterred international students from pursuing their passion for Arabic in Jordan despite the uncertainty of ever-changing travel restrictions and expensive costs of COVID testing. 

Arabic language institutes in Amman began to resume on-site programmes in light of the approval to resume in-person instruction with strict adherence to COVID-19 guidelines announced by the Jordanian government in July 2021. 

Duaa Abdelhadi, assistant director at a leading Arabic institute in Amman, believes that most international students left home to study Arabic in Jordan as “they are fed up with the pandemic”. 

“In terms of the number of COVID cases in Jordan, it is probably still less than what they are experiencing back home,” Abdelhadi added. 

Abdelhadi mentioned that “the main difficulty was to accommodate the different times zones that the students have because our students are from everywhere. We ended up sometimes opening a class for just one or two students”.

Flora Ramsay had been studying Arabic remotely from the UK since March 2021 until she was allowed to enter Jordan last September to attend in-person classes.

However, despite the ease of travel restrictions, she said studying abroad during the pandemic can be both “disruptive” and “expensive”. 

“It definitely makes it more expensive because in the UK, you have to pay for private COVID testing to travel and we have to abide by both Jordan’s and the UK’s COVID rules and restrictions,” she said. 

Zainab, another student from the UK who preferred to go by her first name, quit her university teaching job to study Arabic in Amman and described her passion for the language as “religiously significant and motivating”.

She added that, “Now that I can actually communicate in Arabic, I feel like I’ve gained something massive, something that I have always wanted all my life.”

For Lily, an Arabic heritage learner who also preferred to go by her first name, hopes to pursue formal education in modern standard Arabic and “find her Arab roots”. 

“COVID restrictions are going to be everywhere anyway so I might as well be in Jordan where I can benefit from talking to Arabic-speaking people and improve my Arabic,” Lily added. 

Mohammad Ayaseh, founder of another leading Arabic institute in Amman, said they had to reduce the number of teachers from 14 to seven. He added that they almost got shut down at the beginning of 2021 due to pandemic-induced financial difficulties.

Ayaseh noted that the pandemic was difficult for both students and teachers. “Some of our teachers were depressed and it’s the kind of depression that you don’t notice right away, the students as well,” he said.

“Mental health is a new concept to Jordan. Prior to the pandemic, it was not considered an important subject and people didn’t take it seriously,” Ayaseh said.

“The pandemic has taught people to become more connected to their own feelings and to be more understanding towards one another,” he reflected. 

 

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