Yarmouk University

I’ve been packing up the house the last few days to prepare for moving to Jordan…. Just things that we won’t need for the next few months… like decorations, pictures, some books. The house looks super bare now… it’s a little depressing… I’m not sure if that was a good idea. Maybe I can get flowers to liven up the place. Anyhow, preparing to leave has gotten me remembering some experiences from Jordan from past visits.

When I was in Jordan for a few months in 2015, I had several awesome and fun experiences. A few times I played the biggest fool though, which is expected when entering another culture. I’m glad things like this don’t really bother me that much… I have a pretty high shame tolerance… it takes A LOT to embarrass me…. I think that comes from growing up in two cultures… I had to get used to committing social faux pas on a very regular basis.  Anyways, one of these situations happened when I first moved to Jordan. I was living with a Jordanian family, but the situation wasn’t the best for a few reasons. One of the problems was that the living situation didn’t really allow for me to meet anyone outside the family and their immediate neighbors.

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands to meet some people my own age. I decided to visit the nearby university to meet some students… how hard could it be? I just needed to meet some girls, get their numbers, get invited to their hangouts… and voila… friends for the next few months! So, I left the house alone early one morning and took the bus to Yarmouk University. As I arrived on campus, I quickly realized I was like one of 3 female students on this huge campus not wearing a hijab. As I looked around me at the hundreds of students going about their schedules, I felt extremely conspicuous. Several students stared. I had no idea where I was, no idea where to go, no idea how to go about meeting people.


So, I tried out the least awkward way to start a conversation… I awkwardly walked up to a group of female students chatting outside a building and asked them, in my broken Arabic, where the bathroom was (hoping they would just take me because there was no way I was going to understand their answer). The girls did graciously take me to the bathroom once they figured out I could not understand their explanation: “upstairs, down the hall and second door on the right.” My plan was working… female bonding happens in bathrooms, right?   So, as we walked, I explained my situation as best I could, “I am an Arabic student visiting Jordan in order to practice my Arabic… I don’t know anyone here… will you pleeeaaasse be my friend?” Well, no, I tried to be a bit cooler than that… but that’s what I felt like I was saying. Anyways, they took pity on me and got my number before heading off to class, assuring me they would call me and we could hang out another day. Sweet!!! Got a number!!!!

At this point, I was feeling a lot like a creeper guy who walks around trying pick-up lines on random girls to get them to give out their number.  I embraced it. I shoved down the feelings of, “You are acting like a complete dork!” braced myself for the impending embarrassment and rejection, and I went around campus, searching for girls who could possibly become my friends (or at the very least people to practice Arabic with). I found an outdoor food court and asked to sit down at a table with some other girls and introduced myself. We got into a conversation about different guys at the university that they were interested in… before they had to go to their next classes, I scored some more numbers and more promises to hang out. Next, I ordered food and found another table of girls to sit with…. I asked to sit and they said yes…. Then immediately all got up to leave… Ouch!!! Rejection…. Well, you can’t win them all.

At this point, I felt I had worked hard and had exchanged enough numbers that surely at least one would call me.  So, I enjoyed my meal in silence… until I heard a loud ruckus outside. I finished my shawarma and rushed outside to see a large crowd of students watching a fight. I figured since I was immersing myself in this university, I might as well find out what was going on. I pushed my way into the crowd and asked a student what was going on. He explained, “they are actors! From a television show… they do satire.” Then I noticed the camera crew… it wasn’t a fight… they were just acting. At this point I spotted two women without hijab: one older and eccentric looking with a bright pink hat, the other young and pretty. They were definitely part of the television crew, but they looked approachable… I at least felt we could bond over our lack of religious head coverings. So, I caught up to them and asked them what was going on. They explained to me that they made television shows for a small local channel and they are doing a little segment about violence in universities. Currently, they were shooting a short film depicting some current events at another university. Then, the lady in the pink hat (she was the makeup artist and the younger lady was an actress) asked me to help the crew! So, I followed them around, carried equipment and even helped put makeup on some of the actors (I had to bloody them up because of the fight scene)!  At one point, she even asked me if I wanted to be in the show and called over the director and asked if there was a spot for me. Unfortunately, he didn’t recognize my great acting potential (rightly so, lol) and said there was no role for me in their film…. But it was still cool to be considered!


Anyways, after this whole escapade, I was pretty exhausted and decided it was time to go back home. It had been a very full day. I have to say, I was very proud of myself during my bus ride home… I also pondered how it takes a lot of guts to be a creepy guy who asks for random girls’ numbers (not condoning the behavior… just sayin).

Turns out, the next day I found an opportunity for a new and better living situation in a different city, so I actually was unable to hang out with any of the girls I had met at the university. A few actually did call me, and I tried to explain over the phone that I was moving sooner than I had thought and would, unfortunately, not be able to hang out with them. I really don’t know if they caught any of that with my poor Arabic skills…. I eventually had to hang up on one girl because I couldn’t understand anything she was saying anymore…. I felt bad about that. All my hard work was for naught, but seriously, those experiences at the university, awkwardness, rejection and all was totally worth it!


About sarjb

I am from Brasil, specifically a town near São Paulo called Atibaia. My parents are from the US and lived in Brasil for around 23 years. I came to the US when I was 18 to begin college. Just a few weeks after moving to the US, I met Gary while swing-dancing at OU (the University of Oklahoma). He later became my husband. I studied Arabic in college and have lived in Jordan for a total of around 2 years (both as a child and during my college years).
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