Meet Social Science Scholar Macie Lavender

            This past summer, I participated in CIEE’s Summer Arabic Language study abroad program based in Amman, Jordan. I thus had the opportunity to not only travel to Amman, but to live and study there for eight weeks as part of an intensive, immersive Arabic language program. The classes were in both Modern Standard (MSA) as well as Colloquial Jordanian Arabic (Aamiyah). The course in Aamiyah was part of what drew me to CIEE in the first place, as MSA is not used in every-day speech and largely unintelligible to most Arabic speakers. While I had been taking Arabic for three years in the US prior to going to Jordan, when I arrived in Amman I was almost entirely unable to communicate with people since I mostly knew MSA. Thus, learning Aamiyah was a crucial goal of mine throughout my time in the program. Through the intensive academic schedule, as well as practicing outside of the classroom with my host family and Jordanian friends, I have now been able to achieve that goal by reaching advanced/professional proficiency in Arabic.

            CIEE did not solely focus on linguistics, but also offered many cultural learning opportunities. As aforementioned, I was able to live with a host family, who gave me the chance to practice Arabic at home as well as greater understanding into Jordanian culture and traditions. Family is one of the most important things in Jordanian, as well as greater Arab culture, something I know from my own Arab-American background. It was nice to see how in Jordan, the culture is less fast paced than in America and so people are more apt to regularly make time to see their family members. For instance, my host family would come together every Friday (the Jordanian weekend) for a big breakfast which would last hours. Outside of the host family experience, CIEE offered several excursions within Amman to different important centers, such as the King Abdullah Mosque and University of Jordan. I, along with my other program participants, also engaged in some informal exploring around the city, particularly to its coffee shops. Through this, we met local Jordanians our age and got an insight into what every-day life is like in Amman. CIEE hosted discussions on the topics of race and sexuality in Jordan. It was interesting to learn about these topics outside of a Western/American context, and to see how both are not really discussed in greater society compared to in the US where they are subject to plenty of political debate. My undergraduate research and honors in the major thesis focused on Syrian refugees’ impact on Lebanese support for democracy, but it is based off of research conducted in Jordan. As such, it was of particular interest to me to view the treatment/public attitudes towards Syrians in practice rather than through solely academia.

            Both my summer experience in Jordan and the Social Science Scholars program changed my life. Living in Jordan emboldened my honors in the major research and vastly improved my Arabic ability. Similarly, the Social Science Scholars seminar taught me a great deal about leadership and project planning, giving me the skills necessary to continue in the fields of democracy research and human rights law post-graduation. I am very grateful for all I have learned and look forward to the future knowing I have these programs under my belt.

Macie is a junior from Tampa earning a dual degree in political science and international affairs and another in Middle Eastern Studies. She has been involved with grassroots activism and public service since 2017. Macie is passionate about public policy and human rights and has advocated with refugees and asylum seekers through FSU‘s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and the Florida House of Representatives. She is currently conducting research for an honors thesis on the effects that refugees have on public attitudes toward democracy in host nations. Now in her third year of Arabic, Macie hopes to achieve fluency in the language to better assist migrants from the Middle East/North Africa in multiple ways. Following graduation, she wants to continue advocating for immigrants and refugees in the U.S. and abroad.

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