Ali became a BFF as a YES scholar in 2018. He moved from Amman, Jordan, to Holly Springs, North Carolina, and joined the Allis family. When Ali saw that BFF was representing Jordan as the country of the month, Ali was eager to share his experience.
Ali had a few interesting takeaways when discussing cultural differences between Jordan and America. For starters, he did not realize what a car-dominated society the US is, especially compared to his densely populated home city. To paint the picture, In Jordan, the capital city of Amman, is inhabited by over a million people. The streets of Amman are lively at any point during the day, so businesses are more centralized than most in the US. Going to a city where walking is not the primary form of transportation was a cultural adjustment. Back home, walking down the block to the nearest market will accomplish most daily errands, and it was shocking to Ali that going to the grocery store in the US can be a two-hour affair.
Ali pointed out that trying new foods is one of the most critical elements for assimilation. When reminiscing about his American foodie experience, he had a nice story to tell; “I used to walk to Dairy Queen after school with my friends almost every day. When it was finally time for me to leave the US, the owners took a photo of me and my friends, hung it on the wall, and preserved his memory forever.” Ali mentioned that if there is ever a time that Dairy Queen delivers internationally, his life will be complete. Remember to throw a Bojangles chicken biscuit in that package, too.
Ali’s most memorable moments came from his host family. He attended school with his host brother and sister, and their quality time made a big impression. He has fond memories of game nights and long talks with his host mom. “. I attended the same school as my brother and sister and had much family time. We used to have family dinners at Gran’s house every Sunday, and those moments made me feel like a part of the family.”
During a conversation about his personal growth, he emphasized that adjusting to a new culture is always challenging. He admitted to feeling uncomfortable during his first month, but once school and schedules commenced, he was so busy he didn’t have time to feel uneasy. He encouraged all students in exchange programs to communicate openly with their families and to give themselves time to adjust. After the first month, he felt like a member of the Allis family, and the initial discomforts disappeared.
Ali is now studying industrial engineering at a university in Amman. He accredits his open-mindedness and independence to his exchange year. “It opened so many doors for me that I would have never had and gave me confidence.”