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Living and Learning in Amman, Jordan

Through the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, Anthony Ramsey is studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan.

Anthony Ramsey stands in front of large granite rocks.

Make a second language, second nature.

That’s what senior Anthony Ramsey hopes to accomplish while studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan, for eight weeks this summer. The double major in foreign languages and literatures and international studies is doing so thanks to the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program.

Ramsey is one of three NC State students chosen to participate in the program. They were selected from a pool of over 4,500 applicants.

Ramsey is no stranger to living and learning in an Arabic-only environment. In high school, Ramsey earned a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship from the Department of State to study Arabic in Morocco.

Being in Jordan, like Morocco, Ramsey says, allows them to experience a new culture and traditions, and apply lessons by using Arabic language skills daily.

Anthony Ramsey floats in a sea.
Anthony Ramsey goes for a float in the Dead Sea.

“With total immersion, I have been able to constantly use Arabic and cement elements of the language within my mind that I would be unable to do if I only studied it in the States,” Ramsey says.

Becoming proficient in Arabic and studying in Jordan also “is about educating myself on current conflicts within regions where Arabic is spoken through lived accounts and historical documents,” Ramsey says.

The language also figures in Ramsey’s future, but they are unsure exactly how. “I want to use Arabic in my career so I am going to let that determine a lot about my future path,” Ramsey says.

We caught up with Ramsey to learn more about studying Arabic in Jordan, being an NC State student, study abroad advice and plans for the future.

What is your favorite part of the experience so far?

Visiting the numerous historical sites Jordan has to offer. Some of the cool sites are the town of Umm Qais, which is close to the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Gadara; and Jabal al-Qalaa, which features the ruins of the temple of Hercules.

My favorite, however, is the Dead Sea. Due to its salt content, the buoyancy is astonishing. I was filled with pure joy when I floated in the Dead Sea. I was able to bounce like a buoy, sit cross-legged and comfortably float on my back. It is the most joy I have felt in a quick minute, and I will never forget that experience.

What advice would you give students wanting to study abroad?

Do it! Studying abroad was the most rewarding experience I have had in college because it allowed me to expand my knowledge of the world. It also allows for the accrual of empathy and understanding of the challenges that other individuals face around the world, which assists in gaining emotional intelligence.

Anthony Ramsey stands in front of two pillars
Anthony Ramsey shows Wolfpack pride while visiting the Jabal al-Qala’a ruins in Amman, Jordan.

Did COVID delay your trip to Jordan?

Yes! During my freshman and sophomore years, I planned to participate in the Jordan: Qasid Arabic Institute but was unable to attend due to Covid. Junior year, armed with a CLS scholarship, I finally got to study in Jordan. Good things came to me because I waited and persisted.

Why did you pair two majors across disciplines and departments?

I wanted a breadth of knowledge to draw from as I move forward in my life and to learn about the world from the perspective of the human lens. What this means is gaining knowledge that informs you about racism, social instability, the history of why certain areas are the way they are, and so on. To me, it was all about how I could learn more about society, its issues and the systems that cause those issues to persist.

How will this experience impact your time at NC State?

For the rest of my time at State, I intend to work with my professors to find other rigorous programs like this one to help me become more proficient in Arabic. I also want to keep taking classes that will help me continue learning about the culture and society of the Southwest Asia and North Africa region.

Anthony Ramsey stands next to the Jordan River
Anthony Ramsey poses next to the Jordan River.

Would you do it again?

Though I have experienced many unexpected ups and downs, I would do the CLS program again. There have been days when I was so frustrated I wanted to throw in the towel and stop trying, but I persisted. I have made small gains in my Arabic, which is still something in the grand scheme of my linguistic journey. Rome was not built in a day and my linguistic skills will not be either.

What’s next?

After finishing my undergrad degree, I want to go to graduate school for journalism or international/foreign policies while also taking French and Arabic courses. During my last college semester, I will pursue other government scholarships and fellowships, see what lands and go from there. I may also take a gap year or two to explore a teaching assistant program in France, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or internships in various locations.

Frankly, I will go wherever the wind blows me since I don’t know what I want to do as a career. What I do know, however, is that it will include using Arabic and French and helping people.