A shock to the system

June 29th, 2018   |   SIT Study Abroad

Why culture shock can be a good thing

By Joseph Lee

Jordan: Engineering and Design for Sustainable Environments

Thus far, my study abroad in Amman, Jordan, has been fantastic and very intense simultaneously. The intensity stems from the culture shock I experienced upon entry into the country. Let me preface this by saying that the culture shock was a good thing, because I was warned and able to adapt to the culture quicker as a result. Culture shock is a common thing to happen to travelers, especially those who remain in country for extended periods of time. The shock I experienced was amplified by Ramadan, which I arrived in the middle of. I knew of Ramadan, but I never experienced it firsthand. Thankfully, everyone was willing to explain, and re-explain, the concept to me until I understood.

The end of Ramadan is a celebration known as Eid. This Eid (there are two throughout the year) signifies the end of the daylight fasting during Ramadan. This celebration was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The people rejoice and visit as many family members as they can in a day, just for a brief time even. The people exchange gifts with the women and children of their families. It truly was a shift from the American lifestyle that I grew up around.

The SIT program had a fabulous orientation for the academic side and the cultural immersion aspect of the study abroad. This was another helpful piece to the culture shock that happened. The academic portion has been very interesting. The lectures by the SIT staff and the guests have all been incredibly insightful. The focus of the academics has been around human-centered design for the betterment of the community. Not only have there been great lecturers but we have been given opportunities to travel around Amman and Jordan for field visits. We have been taken to dams, the Royal Botanical Garden, innovative design company buildings, and a local women’s cooperative.

For my design idea, the Royal Botanical Garden and the women’s cooperative are my project sponsors. This means that the meetings with them were very important for me and my design group. The SIT staff have been working very hard to make sure that we have had the chance to conduct the meetings and learn everything necessary for our design. On top of that, the meetings proved to be indispensable networking opportunities.

Overall, the entire experience has been amazing and transformative. It has changed a lot of initial assumptions I had before coming into Amman. This has been coming from the people at SIT and the host family that I was placed with. Everyone has been welcoming and teaching us about the culture and the people. I eagerly look forward to the rest of my study abroad experience.

Joseph Lee

University of Saint Thomas