Zachary Winters '11

  • Major: Religion
  • Minor: Government and Legal Studies
  • Study Abroad Program: CIEE Amman, Jordan

Zachary WintersWhy did you decide to study abroad and why did you decide to spend your semester in Jordan specifically?

I decided to go to Amman, Jordan because of its location in the heart of the Arab world and its reputation as being very welcoming to foreign students.  I had heard from many other students that Amman was an excellent city in which to begin studying abroad in the Middle East.  Similarly, from Amman, I was able to travel to other states in the region with relative ease (Lebanon and Syria, specifically).

Can you briefly describe your academic program while abroad and how your Bowdoin education prepared you for your time abroad?

My specific academic program--through CIEE--was a mixture of intensive Arabic study and elective courses in the humanities.  For language study, I had classes in both Modern Standard Arabic and the Jordanian Colloquial dialect.  I was also able to study both the modern history of the Middle East and contemporary authors in Islamic thought.  My time at Bowdoin prepared me quite well academically for my time with CIEE.  While it was extremely helpful to actually practice Arabic with native speakers, I still left Bowdoin with a sufficient foundation to make a good deal of progress.

What do you believe was the value of study abroad for you personally?

Studying abroad in Jordan was beneficial to me both personally and academically.  My Arabic skills advanced exponentially during my time in Amman, and I returned with a much better understanding of politics in the Middle East.  I found that living in Jordan was both challenging and highly fulfilling.  I lived with a Jordanian family, which gave me some insight into culture in Amman and forced me to practice my Arabic on a daily basis.  While traveling throughout the region was sometimes trying, it also taught me some valuable lessons about patience and flexibility.

How is the learning that you gained abroad impacting your academic work and engagement here at Bowdoin?

While I had some idea that I wanted to study Islam and the modern Middle East before leaving for Jordan, my academic plans were completely solidified by the time I came back.  My Arabic skills have advanced to the point where I have used primary Arabic sources in my honors project, in which I am examining modern Shi'ite critics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  I have also tried to incorporate a heavier focus on the Arab world throughout my academic work at Bowdoin, and hope to continue to study the region into graduate school.

What are your future plans?

Immediately after graduation, I would like to return to the Middle East to continue to practice my Arabic and gain more experience living abroad.  When I return, I would like to continue to study the Middle East in an International Relations graduate school program.  Finally, I hope to someday work in the Arab world, either with the government or an NGO.