Jessica Garross is an alumna of the 2017 CLS Urdu program in Lucknow, India. Jessica is a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international business economics with minors in Arabic and international development. In her free time, Jessica likes to run, read, and be outdoors. In the future, Jessica plans to use her Urdu skills to work in refugee resettlement in the United States.
Poetic and Practical
Urdu is a poetic language and is naturally very beautiful, with a lot of Sufism and spirituality tied into common phrases. One motivation to study Urdu is that I had previously studied Arabic and knew that Urdu had Arabic roots. I also wanted to learn Urdu because a large number of Afghan refugees speak the language and I want to work with refugees as an employment coordinator or resettlement director in the future. There are also refugees in Pakistan and Bangladesh who speak Urdu so it will be a useful skill to have in the field of refugee resettlement.
Celebrating Eid in Lucknow
I was in Lucknow when Eid was celebrated at the end of Ramadan. My host mom is Muslim and spent that whole morning preparing food for her Hindu neighbors to come over and celebrate with her. This moved me because I thought it was a beautiful gesture that my host mom and her neighbors decided to celebrate their differences instead of allow them to drive them apart. I learned that it is a common tradition in Lucknow for neighbors of different faiths to celebrate together. It made me think that communities back home could learn a lot from this.
A New Worldview
I believe that the most intimate way to learn about another culture is through language. Learning Urdu gave me so much more than just vocabulary and grammar: it gave me a new worldview and understanding of Indian culture. My host mom and I would frequently talk about the differences and similarities of Indian and American culture. We both learned a lot from just spending time together and asking questions. My relationship with my host mom was very meaningful and I consider her family now. We still talk often and I hope to see her again someday. I believe that we can break down stereotypes and appreciate both our differences and similarities when we really take the time to learn about other cultures through language.
Personal Growth through Study Abroad
I had some hesitations before studying abroad because it isn't always glamorous and can be challenging in many ways. Nevertheless, I found that I learned the most about myself while thousands of miles outside my comfort zone. During my college career, study abroad has been by far the most rewarding experience I have had. I formed dear relationships all over the world as a result of the CLS Program. The personal growth I experienced as a result of study abroad is incomparable.