The past two days of Pre-Departure Orientation have been such a blur! From travel, to arrival, to meeting everyone in our team, my NSLI-Y journey is off to a great start!
Travel: With this being my first time flying all alone, I was definitely a bit nervous at the airport. Up until security, everything was quite average. After going through the screening, I was a little alarmed to notice that my suitcase hadn’t yet arrived through the scanner. Upon questioning an officer, I learned that the bag would later be taken aside for further screening. I waited patiently for a while, until I realized that boarding had started a few minutes ago. I talked to several officers and they finally got to inspecting my luggage. Soon they found the dangerous item in my possession: homemade Texas peach jelly. It was one of the gifts that I was hoping to bring for my host family, so it was really sad to see the two officers take it away from me. My flight was relatively comfortable, despite being sandwiched in the middle of my neighbors. The only real challenge was trying to study Arabic while on board. I have heard news stories of a man being flagged for saying an Arabic word, or a math professor being asked to leave while solving a complicated problem (because it looked like a “dangerous” foreign language). While I tried to study clandestinely, I was afraid of any unnecessary attention, so I mainly wrote in my blog and listened to music.
Arrival: When my flight arrived at the Dulles Airport, I felt as if the moment I had been waiting for for months was finally here! While I had met a lot of the students through Facebook, nothing compared to meeting them all in person. It was so exciting to see these people, whom I had defined as a profile picture and a few posts on a group chat, actually in front of me! Although I was a tiny bit nervous when I first started talking to my new peers, I soon realized that, despite being an incredibly diverse array of individuals, we had so much in common. In fact, the discussions ranged from linguistics, to foreign language acquisition, to politics, college, and careers. I know these next six weeks are going to be great, especially with these people as my peers.
Our PDO was incredibly busy, and aside from the short built-in breaks, there was little idle time. In fact, we were always doing something interesting! Yesterday, it was mainly just introducing ourselves in Arabic, and talking about what we were excited about. Throughout my time learning Arabic, I have gone through a share of challenges. Coming into PDO, I felt a little underconfident about my Arabic skills and how they would compare to the group. Upon speaking to everyone, however, I realized that we were all in the same boat, and that there really wasn’t any reason for comparison. It is comforting to know that we are all able to relate to the ups and downs of learning such a language.
After our sessions yesterday, we went up to our rooms and were able to get some rest. As it turned out, I had a lot in common with my roommate, Kate, and we chatted late into the night about topics ranging from the differences between North African and Levantine handwriting to IB Extended Essays.
Orientation today was just as packed. We went through a lot of program rules and expectations, talked to a Jordan alum from last year via Skype, and played some Icebreaker games that encouraged us to use communication skills in ways we had not expected. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to walk to the White House and take some pictures there, which was a great way for us to spend time talking to our peers.
Now, as I sit at a table in our spacious, or rather, palatial hotel room (there is a kitchen, a sitting area, two queen sized beds, and a huge bathroom), it is hard for me to believe that we will flying to Amman tomorrow. Yes, TOMORROW! Sure, the table is littered with Arabic notes and books, my NSLI-Y t-shirt is lying on top of my suitcase, and my roommate is tidying her luggage for our travel, but I just can’t fathom that tomorrow evening, we will be on our way halfway across the world, to be immersed into a new culture and way of life. It is so unreal yet so exciting. Now it is just a matter of absorbing our final session of orientation tomorrow, and then heading off to Dulles!!