Building bonds in Jordan

Nina Angeles, a sophomore combined major in human services and international affairs, didn’t face a steep learning curve when she began studying at Northeastern.

But the Boston native took some time to settle into her co-op in Amman, Jordan, which began in January. Angeles teaches courses in English and music to women and their children through the Jordan River Foundation, a nonprofit nongovernmental organization chaired by Queen Rania Al Abdullah.

Though she has studied Arabic for a few years, Angeles quickly noticed that few people speak the language’s classical form that she learned in the classroom.

“No one could really understand me,” Angeles said. “So the moms I worked with would teach me the more informal Arabic as I was teaching them English. It was a real genuine exchange.”

Angeles said the experiential-learning opportunity gives her a chance to build strong bonds with poor mothers and their children as well as with kids in temporary housing who have suffered physical abuse.

Most women will not appear in public without hijabs and headscarves, but Angeles said the capital of Jordan is becoming more of a modern, Western-style city.

“I wish everyone I’ve known in my life could just come here for one week,” she said. “They hold on to their conservative cultures, but it’s an increasingly progressive city. I’ve never been anyplace like this.”

Angeles was the only Northeastern student in Jordan for the bulk of her co-op. But she recently connected with journalism and Arabic students on a Dialogue of Civilizations program to the Middle East.

Angeles wishes she could share her experiences with even more people. “I’ve never met more genuine people,” she said. “I’ve been invited into homes for traditional meals and I’ve met great people I never would have encountered before. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

For Angeles, the hardest part of her first co-op may be coming home.

“But I’m excited to see what happens next.”