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Everyday Adventures and Struggles
By Ainsley Z., YES Abroad 2022-2023 Jordan
I’ve tried writing this story a couple different times now, but each of my attempts haven’t quite worked out. I guess I want capture the feeling of what it’s really like to live on exchange. You can get a lot from the Instagram posts or stories about the most thrilling or hardest or coolest parts of studying abroad, don’t get me wrong, but I also want to talk about just my thoughts about exchange. Not the huge highs and lows of exchange, but just everyday adventures and struggles.
Today is exactly one month since I arrived in Jordan. We leave Amman on June 7th, or in almost exactly eight months and two weeks, so I’ve already lived through about 10% of my time here in Jordan. My feelings about those facts are full of contradictions. One the one hand I can’t believe it's already been so long, but it also feels like this month has been a year all on its own. By the same token, there is a large part of me that is really looking forward to coming back to the US, but I’m also starting to realize all of the things I’m going to miss about Jordan. Our cohort, all the people I’ve gotten to know here, only having to be in class for about 3 hours a day instead of 7, the food, and so much more.
This month has thoroughly tested a lot of my reasons for coming here and wanting to become and stay an exchange student, but it has also given me so many incredible memories. Giant things, like moving alone to another country at 15, and little things like playing silly games with my host cousins.
One of the things that we were told a million times by YES Abroad before we left that has proved very true is that exchange is an emotional roller coaster. Everything will be great and I’ll be doing something amazing, but the next day I might want nothing more than to go back home. A year of studying abroad gives you so many incredible opportunities, but it also presents a lot of challenges that you’d never have considered before. Still, things in Jordan overall have been going pretty well and things are starting to just become normal. Some of the roller coaster-ness has started to even out into normal life. Another thing I’ve learned about studying abroad is that there is a lot of bittersweet. Without both the hard parts and the amazing ones it wouldn’t be an exchange year; each part is tied up with the other. If it was easy everyone would do it and it wouldn’t really be an adventure and if it was just hard with no sweet parts no one would volunteer.
I knew, or at least was told, most of these things before I left, but I knew them in the same way you know 2+2=4 or the sky is blue. It’s just kind of a thing that just is. Now everything about exchange is significantly more real and personal. It’s not just abstract facts or ideas anymore, it’s, at least for these months, my life. I’ve most definitely not figured everything out yet. Arabic is still a huge struggle, I’ve certainly not mastered Jordanian culture and even simple everyday things can still give me trouble, but I hope some of my thoughts (advice?) about exchange has been helpful, or at least interesting!