Immersed in Language and Life in the Middle East
Immersed in Language and Life in the Middle East

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications & Public Affairs Witer/Editor

Cody Wallace ’13 has ridden a camel through the sweeping and immense desert valley of Wadi Rum, danced the dabke at a Bedouin wedding party and spent hours each day studying Modern Standard Arabic and conversational Jordanian in Amman, Jordan.

He will return to the U.S. just days before graduation, bringing with him a new understanding of the people, the languages and life in the Middle East that he intends to carry with him in a career in international security. A criminal justice major in the international justice and security program, Wallace hopes to work in the Foreign Service.

Cody Wallace '13 is spending the academic year studying in Jordan.

Wallace arrived at a time of great ferment in the Middle East, but he was hesitant only when saying goodbye to his family at the airport in September. “After I had kissed my family goodbye and walked through security, I realized that it would be the last time I could hold them for almost a year. That was the most difficult moment for me,” he said.

Arriving in Jordan, he was warmly welcomed and has been ever since. As a student in the Council on International Educational Exchange study abroad program, he spends 16 hours in the classroom studying languages and takes courses including Islam in the Modern Context, which he said sheds light on “liberalization, democratization, human and women’s rights.”

Immersion in the language has helped his Arabic improve dramatically. “What’s fascinating about the Arabic language is that it is so dynamic and complex,” he said. “It is a skill that cannot be learned in a classroom or from a book; it is a language you pick up from constantly talking to people and from those intimate social connections.”

His experiences have reshaped his vision of the world. “I chose to study abroad so I could really experience a whole new world outside the classroom,” he said. One such moment was when his Arabic professor invited him to his brother’s wedding.

“I learned many unique social customs among Bedouins. I attempted the dabke dance, which all the Bedouins thought was pretty entertaining to watch. After all of the dancing and celebration, my teacher’s family brought out huge dishes of Mansaf – a traditional Jordanian dish of lamb cooked in a sauce of dried yogurt served over rice –by far the best dish in Jordan.

“I believe that my cultural insight will not only benefit my own future career endeavors in the field of international security, but will also benefit people wishing to gain a better understanding of the Arab world” he said.

Paulette Pepin, UNH associate professor of history and political science, said she is not surprised by Wallace’s passion. “He was one of the most delightful, intelligent and hardworking students I have ever had,” she said. “Just as he did with all his studies and other activities, he strove to do his best. He has the drive, ambition and strength of character to be very successful at whatever he chooses.”

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