My name is Christian Voelker. I’m currently a sophomore, double majoring in Political Science and Global Studies, as well as double minoring in Arabic and Islamic Studies. Last Summer, I was able to visit Jordan, and as a recent Muslim convert, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a Muslim majority country. It was by far one of the best choices I’ve made. I had little prior knowledge of Jordan other than it was a land filled with ruins of ancient empires, Bedouin life style, vast history, and surely sand. I have no family or relation to the country, but my Step-Father, an Arab Christian, spoke of how kind the people of Jordan are and the beauty of the country. Thus, I choose to travel there.
As someone who loves history and food, I spent the majority of my time sightseeing and eating. My first trip was to the King Abdullah Masjid, the largest mosque in Jordan. I was amazed by its beauty and size, I had never seen anything like it in the US. I then traveled south to the legendary city of Petra, an ancient city of the Nabataeans. I was amazed by not only the beauty of the buildings but how vast the area was, I don’t think any movie depictions of it do it any justice whatsoever. Petra is not just the one building you see in so many photos, but a small city. After that, I would travel up north to Jerash which was once a large ancient Roman city. It still has many buildings from thousands of years ago. The multitude of religions and cultures that have filled the land speak of its rich and long history, from some of the first civilizations in the world to the Romans and the Islamic empires.
While all my traveling was fun, the most memorable part of my journey was the interactions I had with the people there. Everywhere I went, after just a word or two of Arabic or a simple “salaam” I was greeted with smiles and the respect you’d show to an old friend. The two most notable examples were a Bedouin man named Mohammad and an Uber driver named Yousef. When I was in Petra, I was climbing up the side of a mountain when I came upon a small shop, an old Bedouin man sat there all alone. I went up to him and spoke all the Arabic I knew, and after a minute or so of back and forth, he stopped and asked me in English where I was from, when I responded in Arabic that I was an American Muslim, he invited me into his shop. There he and I sat, drinking tea and eating food, all of which he provided. We shared conversations about life, compared tattoos, and talked about religion. Yousef was my Uber driver to Jerash. On the ride up there he and I talked about our families, and he shared stories of life in Jordan. After this, he invited me to have dinner with his family in Amman. The kindness that both men showed me, a foreigner they just met, was something extremely touching and will stay with me forever.
I believe the trip solidifies my understanding of Loyola’s idea of international education and citizenship. Without on-the-ground experience, you can’t understand the culture or the people you are learning about till you interact with them. An International standpoint on education allows you to gain a global multi perspective sense of the world. In essence, you get to learn how similar people and cultures, that you might think are very different from you, are actually more similar than you’d ever believe.