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Food Draws Monmouth Professor to the ACM Jordan Program

Published: May 25, 2015

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It's the food that gave Monmouth College history professor Amy Caldwell de Farias a taste for spending a semester in Jordan. Unlike most travelers, though, her approach to food usually involves a syllabus, not a menu.

Amy Caldwell de Farias

Amy Caldwell de Farias

While she will be going to Jordan this fall to teach as visiting faculty for the ACM Jordan: Middle East & Arabic Language Studies program, enjoying the restaurants in that country's bustling capital city of Amman will be on her "to do" list, as well.

"Jordan has a special appeal to me, because I've been teaching about food and globalization for seven years, and I just recently designed a World History of Food course," de Farias said. "I'm tweaking the course [to teach on the program] and will be focusing a lot on Islamic culture and Middle Eastern culture and how that influences the food, identity, and religion in the Middle East and in Jordan specifically."

Amy Caldwell de Farias traveling

Amy Caldwell de Farias with her daughter visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Her course will include field trips and assignments such as having the students go to a Jordanian restaurant and write a review, said de Farias. "We're also planning to go to a famous restaurant in Amman, called My Grandmother's Kitchen, and the owner is going to show the class how to prepare typical dishes."

The Jordan Program visiting faculty member teaches a course at AMIDEAST — ACM's partner in Amman — which is a non-profit organization offering study abroad programs for students from the U.S., as well as other educational activities in the Middle East and North Africa.

Students on the program study Arabic language, select electives from among courses on a wide range of topics taught in English at AMIDEAST, and have options to complete an independent study project and volunteer with community organizations in Amman.

In addition to her course on food, de Farias will be teaching about research methods and guiding students on their independent projects. "I love to research," she said. "I've researched a lot in Brazil and Mozambique, so that's a class that I'm really excited about. I think we have a good group of students from various majors who will be on the program, and that makes the class really dynamic."

During the summer, the students who are going to do independent projects will be in contact with de Farias to discuss possible topics to explore and background materials to gather in the U.S. before they depart for Jordan. Once the semester begins, an instructor from AMIDEAST will work alongside de Farias to help the students locate sources and experts in Amman to tap for their research.

View of Amman

View of Amman, Jordan from the historic Citadel.

Photo by Emily Gaul

"We want the students to have quality work in their projects that they can actually keep up and revise later on" at their home campus, de Farias said. "A local person [in Amman] who is a librarian and a researcher will very easily be able to locate and suggest these sources."

Having lived in Brazil for ten years, including going to graduate school for her Ph.D. and teaching there, de Farias will bring a lot of experience to easing students’ adjustment to living in Jordan.

"You learn a lot about yourself when you're abroad," she said, "about being tolerant and patient, and listening a lot and being very introspective. I'm hoping I can help the students through any of the culture shocks that they might feel."

One bit of advice is that they keep a travel diary of their experiences. "I find that helps a lot of the students," said de Farias. "For example, they feel like they had a terrible first week and they write it all down. Then they go back and look at it the second week and they'll actually see that they’ve improved."

Petra, Jordan

Visitors at the Treasury building in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.

Photo by Josephine Chaet

She also will be pushing the students to take every opportunity to get out and see the city, meet people, and learn about and embrace the culture. "Get to know people, talk to people," she said. "Obviously, they can't live as a Jordanian would, but to try their best."

Living with host families in Amman is an important aspect of the program, de Farias noted, and she saw what a difference it made for the students' experience of Jordanian society when she visited AMIDEAST in Amman this spring.

"It's great, because all of the students knew how to take the bus and get a taxi, and they could all navigate the labyrinthine streets in the downtown area," she said. "I'm curious to see if our ACM students this fall are as adventurous. I'll certainly encourage them to be!"


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