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September 4, 2012

Four students this summer found themselves not only diving into the Dead Sea, but plunging headfirst into a foreign culture as part of BSU's Arabic Immersion Summer Program held at Yarmouk University in Jordan.

Designed by the Middle Eastern Studies Program, the six-week course helps students enhance their Arabic skills, both written and oral, while they absorb Jordan's people and culture.

"This is a wonderful program, where students get more Arabic language training, and get a living example of a cultural experience with Jordanian students and residents in Irbid [Jordan's second largest city]," said [b]Dr. Jabbar Al-Obaidi[/b], professor of communication studies and coordinator of Middle East studies who organized the trip.

Participant [b]Ryan Rocco[/b], a senior political science major with a minor in Middle Eastern studies, found the program very insightful, academically and personally. "Upon my return home, I can confidently say I better understand Arab culture and values than when I left," said the Plymouth resident. "Living in a completely unfamiliar environment not only opens up the mind to new experiences and ideas, but also can challenge pre-conceived assumptions or ideas about what living in the Middle East might be like for a foreigner."

Mr. Rocco and his co-travelers, [b]Steven Noe[/b], [b]Ala'a Elshaar[/b], and [b]Joshua Sorto[/b], all attended language classes five days a week. In addition, YU facilitated several trips around Jordan, including a night in the city of Aqaba on the Red Sea, a trip to the ancient city of Petra, a tour of the Wadi Rum desert, and a dip in the Dead Sea. The students also visited a couple of biblical sites, including Mt. Nebo and the ancient Jordan River.

"The experience itself becomes quite literally a primary source for information," said Mr. Rocco, who traveled frequently around Jordan during his off-time. "Studying abroad is an invaluable opportunity."

YU hosted and provided free housing and tuition remission to the students.

Since 2006, BSU has had an academic agreement with YU, which has lead to dozens of study abroad trips, as well as student and faculty exchanges. There will be another Arabic immersion program in 2013. (Rob Matheson, '07, G '12, University Advancement)

The tour group, including Ryan Rocco (second from right) and Dr. Jabbar Al-Obaidi (far right)