Omar Masood is a dual-degree graduate student pursuing Islamic Studies and Public Policy degrees. His research interests include examining the way education and educational policy affect refugee identity, particularly amongst displaced Syrian Muslim communities. As one of the recipients of the GISC Summer Fellowship, he was able to travel to Amman, Jordan for Arabic language study.
Masood, who grew up living between Michigan, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, spent ten weeks in Amman, Jordan studying Arabic at the Sijal Institute. His summer language intensive program was a continuation of a year-and-a-half journey of learning and studying Arabic for him. One of the main benefits of this in-person and in-country program was the exposure to the different dialects of Arabic. The majority of his study has focused on fuhsa (formal) Arabic, and by living in Amman, he was able to also learn the Jordanian/Levantine variant of ammiyya (colloquial).
While I have lived in the Middle East before, this was a completely different experience. Performing the smallest tasks like hailing a cab, buying groceries, or ordering at a restaurant were all part of the learning experience.
During his first year at the University of Michigan, Masood completed two semesters of Arabic study, as well as previously having taken summer courses. Despite the difficulties of the volatile COVID-19 situation, Masood applied to the fellowship with the intention to travel abroad.
There is something about language learning which almost demands an in-person environment. At least, that’s how I felt after a year of learning Arabic online. The previous summer, I had completed another summer language intensive with Qasid Institute online, so I was well aware of the benefits and limitations of distance learning. Without the GISC Summer Fellowship, there would have been no chance of me being able to travel. Though I was a Summer Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) recipient for Arabic, the COVID restrictions imposed on the award prevented international travel.
During his time in Jordan, Masood not only completed a language study program but also had a part-time internship with a local research center. He worked as a summer research intern at the Al-Quds Center for Political research. He aided in their current research projects, which dealt with issues surrounding domestic violence during COVID, and performed other duties such as applying for grants.
Outside of the classroom, Masood was able to visit historical and cultural sites all across Jordan. The Hashemite Kingdom is home to several historical sites and natural wonders, from the city of Umm Qais in the North, the Dead Sea in the West, the ‘Desert Castles’ of the West, and Petra to the South.
It was fascinating to walk through Crusader castles and the vestiges of the Roman and Islamic empires. Then, on weekends, a couple of other students and I would rent a car and drive across the country. It was perhaps one of the best parts of my time in Jordan. To be able to touch Nabatean engravings in Wadi Rum was a surreal experience.
Masood continues his study of Arabic this year and is a current recipient of the FLAS Fellowship for Arabic.
Wondering how this can be you? All students currently enrolled at the University of Michigan in an undergraduate or graduate/professional degree program (master's or doctoral level) and are affiliated with the GISC are eligible to apply for the 2022 Summer Fellowship Funding.
The GISC 2022 Summer Fellowship Funding may be used for the following:
- Language training - to offset costs of program fees for language learning.
- Research support - to offset costs for an original project supporting Senior, Master’s, or Doctoral thesis completion.
- Travel expenses (graduate students only) - associated with conducting original research or language training