Madaba, Jordan not only is the home to King’s Academy, founded by His Majesty King Abdullah II, but also proves to be an exceptional hub for any traveler’s greatest dreams. In my quick first month living in the Middle East, I have already traveled to many of the towns and cities of this culturally and historically rich country. We have made trips to Dead Sea, where you float effortlessly on your back looking across the narrow sea into the hills of occupied Palestine; to beautiful churches and mosques, holding some of the most sacred and old mosaics in religious history; to Aqaba, currently home to the countries port on the Red Sea; to the famous crusader castle in Karak; and, lastly and most notably, the Lost City of Petra.
But traveling within Jordan is just the tip of the iceberg in comparison to the wonders and possibilities of this region. The Middle East has many countries that have rich cultures, unique people and a long lasting history that I long to experience in my short nine months to come. During November break, the other Junior Fellows and I are planning a trip to travel to Lebanon to spend a few nights in the exciting and electrifying city of Beirut. After that, we hope to continue on to Istanbul, the former Constantinople, which is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Later on during the year, I hope to also visit a country flooded with religious importance, Palestine-Israel, and lastly travel to see the Sphinx and Pyramids in the famous city of Cairo, in Egypt.
This opportunity to travel and explore the world was enough for me to take a gap year before I head off to the University of Richmond, but there is so much more to this experience. During this year I will really be able to become immersed in Arab culture, respect and appreciate the Jordanian way of life for what it is and learn the difficult but fascinating language of Arabic.
Kings Academy is a very safe place. Currently home to 425 students, 50 or so faculty families that live on campus and many staff, it is a place I am beginning to call my home. It is a “bubble” not unlike Deerfield, except in its surroundings. Outside the walls of King’s, Jordan has proved not only to be a very safe country in which to travel and walk around, but the Jordanian people are some of the most welcoming and hospitable people I have ever encountered.
If taking a Gap year does not appeal to you, or does not seem realistic, there is the opportunity to come work at the King’s Academy during the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP), which is a two-week program where you teach underprivileged kids of Jordan both English and Information Technology. Having taken part in this program two summers ago, I can personally say it is also a very rewarding experience and allows one to get a taste of the Middle East and to travel within Jordan.
Deerfield also has its strong ties and connections within this still very new institution. There is a strong immediate presence and influence on this campus and everyday life from the few Deerfield Alumni. There are currently five Deerfield Alumni teaching and or working at the school, two of the seven Junior Fellows are from Deerfield and one exchange student. That is only a small representation of the many teachers and faculty who have taught and left an impact over the past four years. There have also been six other graduates who in the past three years have done the Gap Year internship. In addition, the founding headmaster of this Academy, Dr. Eric Widmer, clearly had an amazing influence and impact on this community. There are noticeable traditions from Deerfield that have been instilled in the everyday life, such as the assigned table sit-down meals and the school meetings separated by class- sophomores sitting up on the balcony and the rowdy but respected seniors sitting front and center as the rest of the student body watches and admires their every move. That being said, this is not “Deerfield in the Desert,” as the New York magazine dubbed King’s, but a young boarding school modeled after the place we all call home, with its own distinctive culture and growing traditions.
If you have any questions or interest please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Ma’a Salama and Beat Choate!