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Exploring Geneva & Embracing Ramadan Traditions


The last month has been filled with a whirlwind of travel, new experiences, and so much good food! All within the last few weeks, I have had the incredible opportunity to visit Switzerland, participate in my first Ramadan, finish my classes, and begin an internship. There has certainly been an abundance of new schedules and routines to get accustomed to in the last month or so, but it has been filled with much beauty and joy, making a lasting impact.

Field Visits in Geneva

The month began with my program’s long-anticipated international excursion to Geneva, Switzerland. Because of the thematic focus on refugees, health, and humanitarian access, the main reason drawing us to Geneva was the prevalence of many international aid organizations. We have been intently studying many of the global policies for refugee protection, and having the opportunity to gain a more macro-perspective on the creation of these policies was incredibly eye-opening.

Leaving Amman after spending about two complete months in the Middle East and arriving in a European country caused a bit of a shock to my system. I was becoming increasingly familiar with many customs, cultural expectations, and my daily life in Amman, so spending just over a week in a more Westernized context was slightly disarming as I tried to adjust to some of the more subtle differences in the day-to-day. While Geneva had incredible food, I found myself missing my daily breakfast of bread, hummus, labneh, and beets, which had become a sweet, quiet time to talk with my host mom every morning.

Access to widespread public transportation in Switzerland was a welcome change, however. As my main form of transportation in Jordan is Uber, I am fairly limited in how easily I can get around the city at times. Being able to get on a train and quickly go to the countryside with a breathtaking view of the Alps was a much-needed respite from the congested norm in the city.

The United Nations

Exploring cafes, beautiful churches, incredible museums, and hiking occupied much of my time in Switzerland. Still, I was most excited for the chance to visit the United Nations, The Red Cross/Red Crescent, and The World Health Organization. Each visit was starkly different from one another but immensely valuable in their own right. Our guided tour of the UN was conducted entirely in French due to a scheduling mishap, which created a different atmosphere than the one we were all expecting. However, listening to some of the ongoing meetings and walking around the expansive campus provided a unique look into an international entity.


We also had the chance to visit the Geneva headquarters of the Red Cross/Red Crescent. I spent hours exploring their thought-provoking museum. I especially enjoyed their temporary photography exhibit on ‘humanitarian aid,’ which featured almost a dozen artists’ perspectives.

At the ICRC
Walking through one of the exhibits

Our last N.G.O. field visit was to the W.H.O. in Geneva, which proved a stark contrast from the other visits as we not only got to tour the facilities but also got to sit and hear from a few staff members and their perspectives on emergency aid interventions. One senior staff member, who had just returned from a two-month assignment in Gaza, was able to share his personal stories and answer any questions the group posed. In all, these visits and lectures painted the reality of international aid organizations in a very tangible light, reinforcing my studies in Amman and contributing to my ever-developing worldview as I seek to discern my calling and role as a global citizen.

Cheese, Chocolate, and Hikes

My time in Switzerland was filled with more than academic trips to international organizations. Serving as a pseudo spring break, S.I.T. organized for the group to do a few fun excursions as well! We spent one day traveling to Gruyères, where we went on a cheese and chocolate-tasting tour!

Watching the cheeses being produced
Part of the chocolate tour which had some interactive rooms throughout the museum

On some of our allotted free days, a few friends and I explored some of the smaller towns around Lake Geneva. We also took a lengthy hike through the pre-Alps, giving us incredible views as we summited.

Beginning of Ramadan

The day we flew back to Amman was the first official day of Ramadan! Now, nearing the end of the Holy month, I can attest to the incredible food, celebrations, and community that I have experienced thus far. My whole schedule has changed to accommodate fasting and Iftar, bringing me closer to my incredible host family, as the kids always encourage me when I fast. I have loved learning to make new dishes with my host mom and exploring cafes late at night after Iftar with some of my friends in the neighborhood.

Helping my host mom prepare the mint for one of my favorite drinks – limonana
One of our many incredible Iftar meals

A New Normal

My modified school schedule for Ramadan has given me much more time at home, meaning I have more time to interact with my host siblings. My room quickly became the new ‘hang out’ spot for the five of us. After school, they all pile in my room, finding seats on the beds or floor as we catch up about our days, study, and take a quick nap before Iftar. They even learned the “Cotton Eye Joe” dance a few days ago, and we performed it for their cousins!

About a week ago, one of my host brothers found newly born kittens in the apartment building. We found the mother and reunited the family, which provided a lot of excitement for an otherwise uneventful day.

As my classes have ended and my month-long internship begins, I am sure my daily routine will yet again shift. It has been a semester of inextricable grace, and I am anxious to see what the remaining month holds.

Above are many pictures of the “highs” from the past few weeks. They have been filled with so much joy and beauty, but know that there is a lot not pictured. Not included are visits to Syrian refugee camps and local N.G.O.s, late nights watching the news with my Palestinian host family, and the many conversations about culture, identity, and resistance with those around me. While the fun experiences certainly make a mark on this trip for me, these quiet moments of mourning, sorrow, and persistence of faith are equally important, if not more important. For what it’s worth, I am immensely thankful for both and am constantly reminded of the sustaining glimmers of hope.

This semester continues to reflect deep emotion and pull me into spaces I never dared to dream. I am clinging to unwavering hope and basking in the immense joy prevalent in this beautiful country in which I have been so graciously welcomed. Follow along for the last month of my semester, as I hope you have gained a small window into my life in Amman.

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