Thursday, November 2, 2023
Yamam with host mom
With my host mom

When I think back on the abundance of memories and experiences I gained while studying abroad, I have a strong feeling of achievement as well as happiness with how my experience went. Traveling to Amman, Jordan this past summer allowed me to reconnect with my inner child as this was the first time I have been to a Middle Eastern country since I left Iraq to come to the U.S. in 2009. I treasured every minor experience during my stay in Jordan, whether it was hailing a taxi, bargaining with street vendors, or casually walking to the nearby dukkan (local shop) to buy a bag of snacks. Being able to read and see Arabic writing on the streets everywhere I walked gave me a sense of being at home. It brought back familiar memories from when I lived in Iraq. 

Homesickness was never a problem for me because of the warm welcome I received from my host family and the strong feeling of community I discovered in Jordan. My host family welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home from the time I arrived. Their hospitality, delicious homemade meals, and genuine interest in my well-being created a sense of belonging. My host mother became a beloved person who I thought of as a true mother. Her maternal presence gave me an overwhelming feeling that I had a second home in Jordan, whether it was through celebrating Eid, providing advice about life, or just lending an ear. She would always ask me about my day when I got home and how much fun I had exploring the city, which was always my favorite part of my day. 

Being Iraqi and embracing myself in Jordanian culture was an amazing experience, although it came with the challenge of learning a new dialect. While I had some exposure to the Jordanian dialect because of growing up near Jordanians, the Iraqi dialect was not commonly understood, and switching to speaking the Jordanian dialect was first a challenge for me. However, with time and persistence, I gradually became used to the dialect. 

"One piece of advice that I would give to future students thinking about studying abroad is to fully invest in your experience. Take risks, step outside your comfort zone, and let the amazing opportunities and experiences that lie outside your borders challenge you."

The amusing thing is that until I started speaking Arabic, nobody assumed I was Arab. I could see the surprise and curiosity in people's eyes, often followed by questions about my background and what I was doing in Jordan. It was a unique experience that allowed me to connect with others and gave me the certainty that I can ask for their help anytime while I was staying in Jordan. 

Yamam shadowing
Shadowing at the Zaatari Camp​​​​

The SIT Jordan Refugee, Health and Humanitarian Action program I participated in was valuable to my professional and personal development. The program provided me the opportunity to visit ancient places such as Petra and Jerash, which increased my appreciation for Jordan's amazing historical legacy. Amman's magnificent scenery captivated my heart, producing an almost mystical sense of attachment. The internship was valuable to my professional development because it solidified my understanding of the pre-health field by allowing me to gain practical experience shadowing physicians, networking with professionals and sharpening my skills for a successful career in healthcare. 

Being in Jordan was a life-changing spiritual experience that unquestionably deepened my relationship with my religion. Listening to the morning call to prayer on the rooftop while watching the sunrise; the presence of prayer rugs and designated prayer spaces in every restaurant, café, and store I went to; and exploring a new masjid every Friday prayer; my faith was solidified and enriched during my stay. Surrounded by a community that is structured around my religion gave me comfort and peace that motivated me to continue to deepen my faith. 

During my time in Jordan, I was able to be enlightened by being fully immersed in the culture. One piece of advice that I would give to future students thinking about studying abroad is to fully invest in your experience. Take risks, step outside your comfort zone, and let the amazing opportunities and experiences that lie outside your borders challenge you. If you set your mind to wanting to experience a new culture and language, then everything else will align to make that happen. This great educational opportunity allowed me to learn a lot about myself and to strengthen my personal connection with a culture that I missed, which is a beautiful thing about studying abroad. 

Yamam Hussien (neuroscience major, pre-med track), a Diversity Ambassador Scholarship recipient (now the Global Access Ambassador Scholarship), participated in the SIT Jordan Counseling & Humanitarian Action Internship program in summer 2023


The Global Access Ambassador Scholarship (formerly Diversity Ambassador) program provides awards to study abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year. The scholarships are intended to support students who study abroad with the intent to serve as Global Access Ambassadors upon return to the UI campus. Upon completion of the study abroad program and return to UI, award recipients are asked to submit a photo and an open letter to prospective students or suggest an alternate means of sharing with prospective students.

Please note that the opinions and views expressed by ambassadors are solely those of the students and do not reflect or represent the views of International Programs or the University of Iowa.


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.