Last month, Fulbright Jordan celebrated International Education Week by collaborating with YES Abroad students from Amideast/Jordan to hold an international day at the Islamic Educational College Girls School. Four American Fulbright English Language Teaching Assistants (ETAs) participated in this event: Eleanor, Mary, Ryan, and Sumaya. ETAs and YES Abroad students represented American culture through food, art, sports, and interactive games. , ETA Eleanor Harlan shared with us about this event.
Fulbright: In which aspects do you think such an event impacted the students?
Eleanor: “For me, the event reinforced that education is most effective when it is organic and engaging. School students were learning about American culture, but they were doing so without even really realizing it. They learned about Thanksgiving and its purpose of gratitude by drawing "turkey hands" and writing down what they were thankful for in their lives. Similarly, they got a taste of American sports culture by throwing a basketball into a makeshift "net" (i.e., a trash bin.)
When we were telling them about American culture, they listened politely, but when we involved them in fun activities, their faces lit up and they erupted into giggles and shouts. They were learning about the U.S. the whole time, but they will remember the parts that were fun -- the donut eating contest, the drawing, and clapping along as we danced to silly folk songs. Hopefully, the fun they had today will inspire them to explore more aspects of American culture and give them the motive to continue studying English so that they can travel, study, or work in the United States in the future. . . . . Overall, I was so impressed by the enthusiasm and confidence of the young women we met today. It was so much fun to show them our traditional American "folk" dances, teach them about American holidays, and listen to them share their favorite American books. I could not have asked for a more engaged audience!”
Fulbright: Which part of the event did you enjoy the most during the event?
Eleanor: “I especially enjoyed their discussion of Arabic music and its centrality to family life and social gatherings. The girls also introduced me to the art of Palestinian embroidery, Tatreez, with which I was previously unfamiliar. I loved getting to learn the origins of different types of cross-stitching and how each Palestinian village has its own traditional pattern. It highlighted how Palestinian identity is so closely woven into Jordanian culture.”
Fulbright: How did the event relate to your own experience in Jordan so far?
Eleanor: “In the presentation on Jordanian cuisine, I thought it was funny that the first dish that the girls mentioned was mansaf. This is something I have noticed while living here: everyone asks you about mansaf! It is one of the first questions that taxi drivers/shopkeepers/students ask me, regardless of whether the discussion is about food or not. Everyone has their own recommendations for where to find the best mansaf, and people get so animated when they talk about how delicious it is.”