John Black is an alumnus of the 2017 CLS Arabic program in Amman, Jordan. He also participated in the 2014 CLS Arabic program in Nizwa, Oman. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. John grew up in southern Oklahoma and loves cycling, reading, and visiting state capitols. He will matriculate this fall at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.
Coming to CLS
Originally, I chose to study Arabic to meet my university’s language requirement because I was fascinated by the Arab Spring. Studying Arabic seemed like a vehicle to better understand the history unfolding in the region. Then, a professor encouraged me to apply to CLS as a way to practice writing application essays. To my astonishment, I was selected and at eighteen years old was sent to Oman to study Arabic. I applied again in 2016 and was selected to go to Jordan. Those summers were transformative, and set my life on a trajectory that I could have never imagined.
Reaping the Benefits of Immersion
Receiving the CLS award encouraged me to stick with Arabic, but I credit my immersive cultural experience and the connections I made with local people as the deciding factor for my continued pursuit of Arabic. Studying abroad is not only about learning a foreign language; it’s about expanding your own perspective of the world. In 2013, I had little experience outside Oklahoma. Seeing the world outside of my home state – especially a place as far away as the Middle East – was a life changing experience.
When I arrived in Oman, I was surprised. The Omanis were extraordinarily hospitable, laid back, and welcoming. The country’s oil endowment had transformed the impoverished tribes into a wealthy nation over just a few decades, and the Omanis’ awareness of their fortune was inescapable. The program changed how I view the world and understand my place in it. The biggest privilege of receiving CLS were the lifelong friends I made – both American and Arab – for whom I have tremendous respect and admiration.
Expanding Access to Study Abroad
I grew up and attended college in rural Oklahoma, where study abroad is not common. CLS made study abroad accessible to me as well as a broad range of students from counties and towns across the United States. As an Alumni Ambassador, I want to reach out to students who may not have otherwise considered studying abroad, especially those with limited financial resources. It is unlikely that I would have ever studied abroad without a fully-funded program like CLS. Several of my fellow recipients in Oman and Jordan were nontraditional students, working full-time to fund their education. These students are among those who can most benefit from this kind of award.
This first-hand experience of a foreign culture is more impactful than any amount of reading or studying. For this reason, everyone ought to study abroad while in college if it is within their means. The opportunity enables you to see the world in a new and fulfilling way.