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Jordan: Modernization and Social Change

Jordan: Modernization and Social Change

Examine critical issues in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a moderate Arab state confronting political responsibilities, modernization, social change, and the effects of regional conflicts and an ensuing refugee crisis.

The program looks at the enormous strides Jordan has made in healthcare, literacy, and democratic and economic reform as well as the challenges it faces from a lack of natural resources, environmental concerns, and economic and social issues. Students also consider the impact of Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian immigrants and refugees, who now make up more than two-thirds of the nation’s population. Students learn or greatly advance their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in Modern Standard Arabic.

Major topics of study include:

  • The reach of social change and opinion leaders in Jordan
  • The impact of modernization on Jordan’s culture and society
  • The underpinnings of the Arab Spring on politics and society in Jordan and neighboring countries
  • Internal, regional, and international arenas examined through an experiential learning model
My time in Jordan led to me working with Iraqi refugees for the last year, and now I'll be starting a new career as a foreign service officer. Both came about in part from what I learned and experienced in Jordan.

Daniel Acker, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Center for Women's StudiesBeing in the heart of the Middle East, students are able to examine Jordanian government and society as they negotiate the underpinnings of the Arab Spring and ensuing political change in neighboring countries.

Students examine development projects on-location and discuss needs and operations with local experts and policy makers.

Two homestays — an extended urban stay in Amman and a shorter rural stay with a Bedouin family — allow students to practice their Arabic language skills and offer the dramatic contrast necessary to contextualize modernization and social change in urban and rural Jordan.

Independent Study Project

Students spend the last month of the program working on an Independent Study Project (ISP) in which they conduct primary research on a selected topic. The ISP is conducted in Amman or in another approved location in Jordan appropriate to the project.

Sample topic areas include:

  • The Arab Spring, refugees, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the Jordanian internal arena
  • Jordan and foreign policy
  • Political power of tribes
  • Social change through modern art
  • The Christian population in Amman
  • Nationalism in Jordan
  • Women’s participation in Jordanian politics and civil society
  • Environment, resources, and sustainable development
  • Islam and state discourses on development
  • NGOs and donor interaction in Jordan
  • Freedom of expression in the Jordanian press
  • Relationships among Jordanian youth
  • Refugees and political change in the region

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The program’s thematic seminar introduces key aspects of modernization and social change in Jordan. Lectures and excursions introduce students to the history and politics of Jordan, the rapid transformation of land and technology, shifting identities and roles within Jordanian culture, modernity and gender questions, economic and social development practices and regulations, immigration, media, and religion. The language course accommodates any level of Arabic language ability, and the course includes a focus on the Jordanian colloquial dialect.

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Modernization and Social Change – syllabus
(MDES 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
An interdisciplinary course conducted in English, with required readings, examining the major national and international forces shaping contemporary Jordan, including the rapid transformation of land and technology, shifting identities and gender roles, economic and social development practices and regulations, immigration, youth, media, and religion. Resources utilized in the delivery of course content include the University of Jordan, Yarmouk University, the Ministry of Social Development, and the Ministry of Political Development.

Beginning Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
(ARAB 1000–1500 / 6 credits / 90 class hours)
Intermediate Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
(ARAB 2000–2500 / 6 credits / 90 class hours)
Intermediate High/Advanced Modern Standard Arabic – syllabus
(ARAB 3000–3500 / 6 credits / 90 class hours)
Emphasis on speaking, reading, and writing skills in Modern Standard Arabic through classroom and field instruction. Students are placed in intensive beginning, intermediate, or advanced classes based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing. There is further language practice in homestays and field visits. A component on Jordanian Colloquial Arabic is also part of the course.

Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
A qualitative research design course designed to provide an overview of methodological field study approaches within the local cultural context, affording students the tools necessary to conduct field research in Jordan. This course not only introduces field-based research skills (such as interviewing, and participant and non-participant observation), but also strengthens students’ cultural awareness through exercises and discussions about student positionality and the ethics of field work in Jordan. Research ethics and the Human Subjects Review process form a core component of the course. The dual focus on research methods and ethics prepares students for successful completion of primary field research in Jordan for the Independent Study Project.

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Amman or another approved location in Jordan appropriate to the project. Sample topic areas: the Jordanian political system; Jordan’s foreign policy; the Arab Spring, refugees, nongovernmental organizations, and the Jordanian internal arena; state power and the regulation of Islam; gender and forms of sexual expression; Jordan and the Gulf Corporation Council; political power of tribes; social change through modern art; the Christian population in Amman; nationalism in Jordan; women’s participation in Jordanian politics and civil society; Islam and state discourses on development; nongovernmental organization and donor interaction in Jordan; environment, resources, and sustainable development; freedom of expression in the Jordanian press; relationships among Jordanian youth.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects / undergraduate research.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Through experiential learning, educational excursions highlight Jordan’s modernization, along with social changes taking place. Arabic language learning is also highlighted. Excursions provide an exceptional opportunity to compare urban and rural communities as well as Jordanian and Turkish experiences in modernization and development.

Badia (Bedouin Community)

This excursion provides students with the opportunity to explore everyday life in Jordan’s Badia. Students experience the daily life, culture, and traditions of a Bedouin community, one of Jordan’s most distinct and well known groups. As they are known in Arabic, the Bedu, or "desert dwellers," have learned to survive and endure the unforgiving climate of the desert. It is difficult to know the exact size of the Bedouin community, but it is generally known that Bedouins form a significant proportion of Jordan’s population. Today, the majority of Jordan's Bedouin population lives in the vast wasteland that extends east from the Desert Highway. Throughout the middle, south, and east of Jordan, Bedouin communities are marked by their characteristic black goat-hair tents, known as beit al-sha'ar, or "house of hair."

Central and Southern Jordan

This excursion takes students to both Central and Southern Jordan. Students receive customized Arabic lessons in a field-based setting; lessons focus on the sites and communities they visit, and students enjoy highly interactive conversations about the places they experience. Students are engaged in Arabic practice from the time they leave Amman until their return; this includes language practice during periods of travel.

Highlights of this excursion include:

  • Jerash. Students experience the extraordinary remains of the ancient city of Jerash, one of the most impressive and best preserved Roman cities outside of Italy, located a little less than 50 kilometers north of Amman. Read more about Jerash.
  • Ajloun. Just northwest of Jerash is located the town of Ajloun, home to the Castle of Ajloun or Qalaat Errabadh (Arabic for "hilltop castle"). The fortress was built by Muslims from 1184–85 as a military fort and buffer to protect the region from invading Crusader forces. Students spend a night at the Ajloun Forest Lodge, which occupies a large grassy clearing, enclosed by oak, pistachio, and strawberry trees. The lodge offers beautiful views of the reserve; occasionally one can see as far away as Jebel Sheikh in Lebanon.
  • The Dead Sea. Located approximately 33 miles southeast of Amman in the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea is the most spectacular natural landscape in Jordan. In addition to being the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea is the world's richest source of natural salts. 
  • Madaba and Mount Nebo. Madaba is best known for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially a large Byzantine-era mosaic map of Palestine and the Nile delta located in the nineteenth-century St. George’s Greek Orthodox church. Students visit the site and enjoy a smaller but still populous Jordanian city. Then, students travel to Mount Nebo, which, according to ancient tradition, is the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land.
  • Wadi Mujib. Students have the opportunity to explore Wadi Mujib, a spectacular gorge in Jordan that enters the Dead Sea. The Mujib Reserve of Wadi Mujib is the lowest nature reserve in the world.
  • Aqaba. Students experience the ancient city of Aqaba, an important port city and the ancient Red Sea resort of Jordan. Aqaba’s history dates back to 4000 BC. Also known as Ayla, Aqaba was once ruled by the Mamluk Sultan from Egypt. 
  • Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum lies about 200 miles southwest of Amman and 42 miles north of Aqaba and is among the most stunning desertscapes in the world. In Wadi Rum, students experience the exceptional hospitality of the desert people and Bedouin tribes. They may share mint tea or cardamom coffee in Bedouins’ tents, or join them by the fire under a starry desert sky.
  • Petra. Students spend a day visiting Petra, a treasure of the ancient world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Petra also has the distinction of being one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Prior to arrival in the Rose-Red City, students receive an intensive academic lecture about Petra. Following the lecture, students spread out in pairs and small groups to explore the city to experience firsthand the topics covered during the lecture. The visit concludes with a debriefing and conversation in Arabic.
  • Dana Nature Reserve. The dynamic topography of the Dana Nature Reserve extends from the top of the Jordan Rift Valley to the desert lowlands of Wadi Araba. Students experience the reserve’s impressive mountains, the ancient ruins of Feinan, the cliffs of Wadi Dana, and Dana village. Students receive a customized lesson about the reserve and engage in two debriefing sessions conducted in Arabic. As in Petra, students are expected to read a text in Arabic about the site, which is followed by a question and answer session.
  • Azraq. Located in the heart of Jordan’s eastern desert, Azraq, which means, “blue” in Arabic, is Jordan’s only wetlands reserve. Students visit this historic oasis and acquire a greater understanding of the importance of environmental conservation. Students also visit Qasr al-Harraneh and Qusayr ‘Amra, two historic castles from the eighth century.


TurkeyThe program includes an excursion to Istanbul, Turkey, a city that offers a unique blend of East and West. Turkey has emerged as a leading economic, political, and cultural power in the region, and many countries in the Middle East look to the Turkish development paradigm as a suitable model to emulate. In Istanbul, students learn about the history of kemalism, the question of the Kurdish minority, and the role of Islam in modern Turkey. Students meet with peers from Istanbul University and visit Old Istanbul, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, and Suleymaniye Library and Mosque. They also have the opportunity to enjoy a boat cruise on the Bosphorus and visit the eastern side of Istanbul.

Students have to write a comparative essay on Turkey and Jordan in which they analyze aspects of cultural, economic, or political life in both countries while documenting ways in which the excursion has contributed to their understanding of the dynamics in the Middle East.

What sets this program apart is the attention and support given to each one of us. The SIT staff has been unbelievable in meeting my personal and emotional needs. All of the SIT staff contributed greatly to my experience and I hope to come back to Jordan to visit. Through SIT I really got to see the beautiful culture and traditions of Jordan.

Annie Rupani, Boston University

Dr. Ashraf Alqudah, Academic Director

Ashraf Alqudah Dr. Ashraf Alqudah holds a PhD in clinical and medical psychology from the College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida and an MA in psychology from the University of Jordan. He specializes in clinical medical psychology and the psychology of chronic pain. His area of research interest includes psychopathology, psychological treatments and psychotherapies, and psycho-social support for refugees and displaced persons. Dr. Alqudah is also affiliated with the department of psychology at the University of Jordan in Amman and has worked on projects conducted by a number of health organizations that included Doctors of the World Organization, the War Trauma Foundation, and the Antares Foundation. He is a member of the Higher Council of the Humanitarian Support Network of Jordan and the Jordanian Mental Health Licensing Committee. Since 2008, he has been involved with the SIT Modernization and Social Change program in Jordan as lecturer, ISP advisor, and then as coordinator of the Research Methods and Ethics course. Dr. Alqudah has co-authored a number of articles that appeared in refereed journals that include the Journal of Cybertherapy and Rehabilitation and the Journal of Pain Research. He is currently finishing a research project on resiliency among Iraqi refugees in Jordan. 

Dr. Raed Al-Tabini, Academic Coordinator

al tabini Dr. Raed Al-Tabini, a Jordanian national, holds a PhD (received in 2002) in arid and semi-arid land management (rangeland management) and community development from Newcastle University in the UK. He is a former deputy president of the Badia Research and Development Center (BRDC) in Jordan. Dr. Al-Tabini has managed a variety of development projects in the Middle East and North Africa on such diverse topics as community-based rangeland rehabilitation, management of scarce water resources, and development of sustainable livelihoods in agro-pastoral communities. Dr. Al-Tabini is a frequent presenter at international conferences and has published more than 25 academic papers and reports in the field of sustainable development.

Dr. Al-Tabini recently co-wrote with Octavio A. Ramirez, Richard Phillips, and Frank A. Ward an article, “Irrigation Water Conservation and Market-based Approaches: Balancing Agricultural and Urban Water Demands in the Face of Climate Change in Jordan’s Azraq Basin,” published in Adaptation to Climate Change through Water Resources Management: Capacity, Equity and Sustainability (Routledge, 2014).

Dema Matrouk Al Oun, Homestay Coordinator

Dema Al Oun has been working as a homestay coordinator with SIT Study Abroad since 2008. In this capacity, Dema assists with a wide range of homestay arrangements and also works with both students and host families on cross-cultural communication skills. She received her BA and MA in law from the University of Jordan. In addition to her work with SIT Study Abroad, Dema is an active volunteer with the National Center for Human Rights, the Jordan Center for Civil Education Studies, the Jordan Society for Human Rights, and the University of Jordan's Community Service Office. She is also involved in activities with the local community in the Northern Badia. Dema is a member of the Photographic Society of Jordan and Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Knowledge Center‏.

Rania Kasab Harfoushi, Program Assistant/Student Affairs

Rania Harfoushi received her master’s degree in international business management from the University of Surrey in England in 2009 after completing her BA in business administration at the Applied Science University in Jordan. Throughout her career, she has accrued significant experience in human resources management while honing her language and cross-cultural intrapersonal skills to fit the needs of SIT’s diverse student populous. Her past experience in sports management has also helped her in dealing with a wide variety of personalities. Rania began her work here at SIT as a program assistant and is responsible for managing student affairs and helping students cope with the day-to-day challenges they face while studying abroad in Amman.

Rawan Francis Al-Samaan, Custom Program Assistant

Rawan Al-Samaan, SIT’s custom program assistant, is a lifetime resident of Amman with experience in financial management, analysis, marketing, and strategic planning. She received her bachelor’s degree in finance from the Amman Al-Ahliyeh University in Salt, Jordan, in 2008. Rawan began working with SIT Jordan in June of 2013, and has since been using her knowledge of finance and strategic planning to assist in the management of SIT’s custom study abroad programs through the institution’s college partners. 

Rima Al-Akramawi, Language Coordinator and Instructor

Rima Al-Akramawi holds a BA in English language and literature from Mutah University and is a certified translator and language proficiency interviews (LPI) tester. She started working with SIT in Amman as a language instructor in the summer of 2010. Rima has eight years of experience teaching Arabic as a second language. She has worked as a language coordinator with the Peace Corps and as an Arabic language instructor at the French Cultural Center of Amman and other Arabic language institutions. She is a co-author of Yalla Ndardesh, a modern Jordanian Arabic textbook for non-native speakers of Arabic.

Dr. Mahmoud Al-Shafie, Language Instructor

Mahmoud Al-Shafie has been a language instructor with SIT since February 2007. He received his BA in education, with a concentration in Arabic, from the University of Jordan, where he also earned a master's degree in curriculum and teaching in Arabic. He recently received his PhD in curriculum and Arabic teaching methodology at Amman Arab University. Mahmoud worked previously as an Arabic instructor for speakers of other languages at the University of Jordan's Language Center. He has published two novels, Nuzha Fee Jahannam (Picnic in Hell) and La'natu Al-Jasad (Body Curse). His other publications include the series, “Noon Wal Qalam, Teaching Arabic for Speakers of Other Languages.”

Riham Al-Naimat, Language Instructor

Riham Al-Naimat obtained a master’s degree in Arabic language and literature from Al-Albayt University in 2007. In 2009, Riham began volunteering as an SIT Jordan language instructor for intermediate high and advanced levels. In the summer of 2010, she joined SIT full time and has been teaching Modern Standard Arabic ever since. She previously worked as an Arabic instructor at the Jordanian Ministry of Education and as an Arabic instructor and language coordinator at international schools in Saudi Arabia.

Hala Alfayez, Language Instructor

Hala has a BA in law from the University of Jordan. She received training for teaching Arabic as a foreign language from the University of Jordan and Qasid Institute for Classical and Modern Standard Arabic. She worked as a language-speaking partner to American students at the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR). Currently, she is working as an Arabic language teacher with SIT Study Abroad.

The Jordan: Modernization and Social Change program includes two different homestays, in Amman and in the rural area of Badia. Homestays provide students with an excellent opportunity to experience two highly different lifestyles, perspectives, and values while practicing their Arabic language skills. All host families are carefully selected.


AmmanStudents spend the entire program period, other than the time on excursions, living with a homestay family in West Amman. The homestay provides students with an outstanding window into Jordanian urban life and culture. Most homestay families are middle class and maintain the customs of the typical Arab home. 

Homestay families may include first or second generations of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, now a major component of Jordanian social and cultural life. Students are integrated into their host family's daily life, partaking in everyday activities such as sharing breakfast, participating in family outings, and shopping. In some cases, students have the opportunity to experience a Jordanian wedding ceremony or other traditional cultural activities organized by the host family or relatives. The homestay in Amman allows students to better understand the life of a Jordanian family and gives them a unique opportunity to further enhance their speaking abilities.

Badia (Bedouin homestay)

rural homestayStudents experience a five-day rural homestay in the Badia area of Jordan, living with a Bedouin family who is either nomadic or semi-nomadic. This excursion provides students with the opportunity to experience firsthand the daily life, culture, and traditions of a Bedouin community, one of Jordan's most distinct and well known groups. Students travel on their own to visit their carefully selected Bedouin family.

Other accommodations during the program include hostels, research institutes, or small hotels.

Program Dates: Fall 2015

Program Start Date:  Sep 6, 2015

Program End Date:    Dec 18, 2015

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   May 15, 2015


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $15,340

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • History and politics
    • Modernization
    • Culture and society
    • Religion
    • Gender issues
    • Economic Development
  • Field Study Seminar on research methods and Human Subjects Review
  • Intensive language instruction in Arabic
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Petra, Wadi Rum, Dana Nature Reserve, Aqaba, and Turkey, including all related travel costs
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board:$3,060

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Amman), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period.
  • Homestay (twelve weeks in Amman and five days in the rural Badia area)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly or through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $ 60

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $250

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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