Sara Schnackel of Omaha, Nebraska participated in the YPO-WPO program at King's Academy for the first term of the 2011-2012 academic year. Below are her reflections on the experience.
How has your experience been at King's?
Different than I expected, in a good way. I've traveled before and this is going to school, not going on vacation. I thought boarding school would be rigid and really serious. But even though it's challenging, it was welcoming, fun. Everyone is so nice and I love living in the dorm. It's amazing how many friends I made and how fast. I thought it would be harder to fit in, but it was really easy. I was shocked how friendly people were right away. It made it much easier.
What have been the highlights?
Living in the dorm with my friends is like a constant sleepover. I was invited over someone's house the very first weekend. Local Arab families are so kind and make you feel so welcome. I also love the lifestyle and love being able to wake up 15 minutes before class starts and still be on time. Also, one of my American friend's families invited all the American students to their house in Amman for Thanksgiving dinner! We had all the traditional food and it was nice to celebrate the holiday with friends even though I wasn't home.
Did it offer you the cultural experience you were looking for?
Yes! I went to a soccer game with the school and although it was uncomfortable sometimes (me and another girl were the only non-Arab girls,) it was also an amazing view into the culture. I never felt threatened or scared but it was just an amazing experience. I have also been able to see the amazing sites in Jordan like Wadi Rum, Petra and the Dead Sea. You read about these things in the US but to see them in real life is incredible.
How about the academic experience?
Coming from a public school, I thought it would be much harder and that I might be in over my head at a prestigious boarding school. Although I find my classes challenging, there is so much support. You see your teachers every day in and out of the classroom. You live with them in the dorm. You have an advisor. You live with your classmates and there's even a study skills department that can help you if you're struggling. I have learned so much in my classes but I have also learned a lot from my friends about Jordan.
Would you recommend this to other YPO families?
Definitely! Safety is obviously such a big concern but it was absolutely never an issue and I have never felt unsafe the entire time I've been here in Jordan. I've been uncomfortable at times but I feel like those times were important to my experience --to literally step outside my comfort zone. The campus is like getting into a military base and the security is so thorough but the actual security people are super nice. And although they don't really interact with you while you're on campus, you know they are there and are keeping you safe. We also aren't in the middle of the capital and it feels safe kind of being out away from everything (even though it's just a 30-minute ride to go to Amman if you want to.) I've loved my time here, learned a lot, gained a lot and will always remember it as a time that opened my eyes and helped me grow.