Maeve Knepper is an alumna of the 2022 CLS Arabic Program hosted by Jordan Language Academy in Amman, Jordan. She is a senior at University of Wyoming and will be graduating in May with a B.S. in Economics and a B.A. in International Studies. Maeve hopes to attain a master’s degree in development economics and join the public service specializing in the Middle East. She is particularly interested in natural resource economics related to issues such as water and energy. Following graduation, she hopes to return to the MENA region to conduct research on these topics.
Getting to Know Maeve
I am from Wyoming and have lived here for over a decade. Despite coming from a largely rural area, I became interested in global affairs through high school speech and debate, theatre, and French class. These experiences made me passionate about studying other languages and regions of the world.
In 2019, I studied abroad in Jordan through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y). I began college at the University of Wyoming that fall, and I have studied Arabic ever since. During the Fall 2021 semester, I also studied abroad at Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. I then returned to Jordan with CLS in 2022 and again to conduct research in January 2023.
I have loved every one of my visits, and I hope to have the opportunity to travel to more places in the MENA region over the coming years. I notice many similarities between the independent mindsets of Wyomingites and people in the Middle East and North Africa, which I never would have believed if you had told me that five years ago. hope my experiences will encourage more Wyomingites to visit as well!
In high school I was interested in the Middle East very generally as a result of reading the news. I knew it was a region relevant to U.S. foreign policy, but my knowledge of culture and the Arabic language was next to nothing. In 2019, I participated in the NSLI-Y Summer program in Amman, Jordan (I applied mostly out of broad interest), and I loved it. My Jordanian host family was very welcoming, and I learned so much about food, music, and language. I loved everything about Amman and the Middle East, in large part because of the incredibly welcoming people. I began college that fall and have studied Arabic ever since.
One thing anyone who has been to Jordan will tell you is that Jordanians will never let you pay. People will do anything to pay the bill because it’s an important part of the culture surrounding hospitality and the treatment of guests. As a result, all throughout my CLS summer, I never won the battle to pay for a meal or activity with my language partners and Jordanian friends. I returned to Jordan four months after my program and met up for dinner with a former language partner. Finally, after much good-natured arguing, I won the battle to pay for our meal at a restaurant! In that moment, I felt more integrated in Jordanian culture than I ever had before. Just by something as simple as paying for a meal, I felt more like a member of a community rather than a guest.
Wyomingites & the MENA Region
There are more people from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in Wyoming than one would think; however, most Wyomingites don’t know this. I have found people in my community to be overwhelmingly curious about my time abroad but often do not have the means to travel themselves. I hope that by dispelling some of the most common negative stereotypes about Jordan my community has become more welcoming of those from the region that live here. I also hope that my experience in the MENA region will inspire other students in Wyoming to find opportunities to study there as well, even if they are from rural areas where travel is more uncommon.
Why Others Should Consider Arabic
Yes! Everyone should learn Arabic. Not only will it give you the ability to speak with hundreds of millions of people, but it will also open doors to Middle East and North African art, music, literature, religion, and history (among other things). My favorite part about studying Arabic is how the language is intrinsic to the culture and vice versa. It is impossible to achieve a full grasp of the Arabic language without understanding the culture. As a result, I am constantly learning more about the Arab world by studying the language. While abroad, it is very rewarding to see the connections I make in the classroom take place in daily life.
Words of Advice
Do not be dedicated to language study because of the opportunity to study through CLS; rather, be dedicated to language study because of your genuine desire to learn the language and use it in your future, and CLS will follow. It might sound a little cliché, but there are lots of people who might be interested in language learning but are not able to communicate their “why” on paper. Understanding what motivates you will set you apart and give you a more fulfilling CLS experience.
The most valuable part of CLS is seeing in real time the results of what you are working towards. With a language as challenging as Arabic, it can be very frustrating to practice in a classroom because it often feels like you’re not seeing any results. CLS provides you with the opportunity to get out and use the language in daily life and see the progress that you are making. My advice to students is to take the positive and rewarding moments from your time abroad to carry you through the frustrating plateaus of the classroom when you return.
March 28, 2023