Students Hayley Stone and Rachel Knies had the experience of a lifetime last semester exploring, learning and studying in Jordan.
Knies, a senior majoring in political science, said her time in the Middle East confirmed her path for the future.
Her interest in studying in the Middle East was sparked by her professor, Dr. Michael Frank.
“He wanted me to go to the American Studies Program in D.C., but once he said the Middle East, I was very interested in it,” Knies said. “I have been planning to go since freshman year.”
Stone, a junior majoring in international relations with a minor in peace and transformation, was first interested in the Uganda Studies Program.
“I knew I needed to study abroad for my major, and I was actually planning on going to Uganda, which is through the same organization that I went to the Middle East with,” Stone said. “I looked at other places, and I thought maybe I wanted to travel someplace else.
“I really connected with the different aspects of the organization that were offered in the Middle East program,” she said. “We did service projects every week, and there was a lot of travel included in the tuition, which I was really excited about. That’s what lead me there.”
Before they left, the students had to prepare themselves mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually for the upcoming adventure to Jordan.
Stone and Knies left the first week of January and arrived back in the U.S. mid-April.
During that time, they had had very different experiences.
“I got re-baptized in the spot Jesus did, so that was really cool,” Knies said. “We also followed the path of Jesus’ life. We went to Israel and Palestine and saw where Jesus was born and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and where Jesus was buried. We also saw where he was killed and walked down this major road called Road of the Fathers where all of them had walked. It was really cool experiencing that.”
Knies also got to snorkel in the Red Sea, visit Dome Rock and see the Pyramids in Egypt.
Stone spent time doing missions work for the Syrian refugees. Her team, made up of fellow students and a missionary couple, interacted with refugees and their families, as well as helped deliver donations and supplies to the refugees.
“I got to go on the roof of the church where we were serving, and I was able to look up outside and see a sea of white tents, which is where the refugees from Syria were living,” Stone said. “They weren’t allowed to cross the border, but also weren’t allowed to be in their homeland, Syria. They were just stuck in between, because they weren’t allowed into Jordan. Jordan couldn’t accept more refugees, but the refugees also didn’t have what they needed in Syria, so they couldn’t live anywhere.”
Aside from her missions work, Stone recalled a night in the Wadi Rum desert—the location for the filming of the Oscar-nominated movie “The Martian”—where she and her peers decided to stay overnight as an end-of-trip celebration.
“We got to sleep under the stars, which was amazing,” she said. “There was nothing for miles. We were two hours outside of the city in the desert. We could see the asteroid belt, and I think we counted about 70 shooting stars that night. I was just so in awe of God’s creation in that moment.”
Neither Stone nor Knies set expectations on the culture of Jordan, but there were some things that stood out to them during their time in the Middle East.
“The people there are so hospitable,” Knies said. “They are so kind and open. We are so busy all the time, but there they don’t care about a schedule, they just want to build relationships with you.”
For Stone, it was how the women were treated in the Middle East.
“Women are one of the more highly respected populations over there,” she said. “They tend to make the decisions over there, which isn’t what we see in the media or experience here in America. It was really a surprise to see the way the feminist movement has progressed over there in different ways than it has here.”