Located in Amman, Jordan, the Middle East Studies Program (MESP) immerses students in the daily life, language, food, culture, religion, and politics of one of the oldest cities in the world. With extensive travel throughout the Middle East, you will learn firsthand from locals how to work, play, and serve in the region as you become their neighbor — and soon, their family — while learning adventurously at MESP.
Connect With MESP
Dear Prospective MESPer,
I am so glad that you are considering the Middle East Studies Program! My wife Patti and I have lived in Arab contexts for over 36 years, and we consider it our privilege to share this world we have come to know and love with our students.
A semester with us in the Middle East offers some amazing opportunities:
- Develop skills and confidence that will enable you to step out of your comfort zone and enter into the life contexts of people who are different from you, and whom you don’t know, to learn and relate and adapt. (Our students show significant intercultural growth each semester, as measured by a leading tool, the Intercultural Development Inventory.)
- Come to a deeper understanding of Islam through hearing from and interacting with Muslims. Become the kind of person who can build relationships and bridges; who can help Christians and Muslims (and anyone else) learn to live together well in the spaces we share in today’s increasingly globalized world.
- Gain insight into the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and grow in your understanding of what it means to be a peacemaker, as you are exposed to people and perspectives on both sides.
- Learn Arabic (the Jordanian dialect) in a way that is both fun and practical! You’ll have daily opportunities to use what you learn taking taxis, interacting in shops and restaurants, and traveling to other areas in the Middle East. (Many MESP students develop a “bug” for Arabic that leads to further study.)
- Experience deep and life-changing community with your fellow students, and develop lifelong friendships with others you might never have met on your own campus. (You live, study, and travel with 15-20 other amazing students and staff for the duration of your MESP experience.)
- Take two trips in the region (10-11 days to Israel-Palestine and two weeks to places that have included Cairo, Tunisia, Morocco, and Istanbul), during which you meet local people, hear from speakers on various relevant topics, engage the history and culture, and experience the local food.
- Spend one day per week in a service project, in which you learn as you make yourself available to serve. Opportunities include working with refugees, women’s projects, schools, and more.
Many of our alumni return to the Middle East pursuing careers in humanitarian work, foreign service, and ministry. Others apply what they learned during MESP to various vocations in the States and Canada. Whatever your career interests, the skills and perspectives you gain on MESP will help you be the kind of person who is ready to adapt to new and challenging situations, relate positively to others, and successfully negotiate diversity (skills that are in demand in all work places in our pluralistic world).
We hope to see you in Amman!
Forget everything you know about classroom academics: This is learning through immersion. MESP students learn firsthand from locals who live out the subject matter. You will live, work, eat, play, and travel among Jordanians, becoming a member of their neighborhoods. By the end of the semester, your life will have become entangled with theirs—their cultures, languages, passions, and joys. We are committed to this Christ-centered approach, aiming to serve, process, and evaluate your immersion as you grow in your understanding of what it means to be an incarnational follower of Jesus.
When Dr. Doug lectures, you’ll want to listen up! His specialty is intercultural development — teaching students to grow in how they relate to and live effectively among people from different cultures. His passion is to see students truly understand what it means to engage in another culture, not just live there as tourists. As part of the Peoples and Cultures course, you will take the Intercultural Development Inventory and be personally mentored by Dr. Doug and Program Administrator Patti Magnuson on how to relate to local people, communicate effectively, and grow in your understanding of culture as a whole. You will also be challenged to apply these principles of understanding and openness to your other courses.
In addition to the interactions you’ll naturally have while living immersed in this culture, MESP provides opportunities for you to make progress in these areas by facilitating service projects, homestays, and multiple cultural exchanges in which we pair you up with local young adults who speak English and are interested in sharing their culture with you.
MESP Director Dr. Doug Magnuson coordinates the four classes you’ll take here. He has lived in the Middle East for more than 35 years and will give key lectures based on his unique experience and expertise. However, many of your class sessions will be taught by local guest lecturers, and nearly every week, you’ll get to meet and hear from at least one world-class expert who may also be a religious leader, embassy official, member of an Israel-Palestine negotiations team, or author. Plus, MESP students take all their classes together, which means you’ll be able to discuss the morning’s lecture over lunch, the afternoon field trip, or while hanging out in your apartment.
All day, each day, Muslims share this greeting. It’s a greeting related to “Shalom Aleychem,” the salutation used by Jews for centuries. Both mean, “Peace be upon you.” But few regions in the world seem further from peace than the Middle East.
It is for this reason that we recall the words of our Lord, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” knowing that if we are to be true peacemakers, we must first understand the complex causes of conflict. One of the first lessons here is that peace comes only through sacrifice and engagement – not mere words or cheap grace.
The Middle East Studies Program integrates the study of culture, history, religion, politics, and language. Three seminar courses and an Arabic course overlap and interact throughout the semester. In addition, qualified students may receive intercultural practicum credit during the semester.
MESP operates on a cohort model, which means that students take all their classes together. In addition, you will live, worship, eat, and spend three weeks traveling with your fellow MESP students. Staff members are also with you every step of the way.
Doing all of these things together allows you to get the most out of your academic experience in the Middle East. You’ll have the opportunity to process what you’re learning with staff members, fellow students, and even guest lecturers, who sometimes join us for lunch. In addition, as a Christ-centered program, we seek to reflect daily on how Jesus would have us engage with the people and issues we’re studying. It’s an academic and spiritual journey as a community!
MESP is non-partisan and we believe you should be exposed to all sides of the issues we’re studying: on a regular basis throughout the semester, MESP hosts guest speakers from across the spectrum to teach about the culture, religion, and politics of the region. We want you to understand complex issues from various perspectives and decide for yourself where you stand.
To make sure we engage with students’ particular areas of interest, our speakers also examine specialized areas of the subjects we study, such as psychology, history, politics, international relations, intercultural studies, anthropology, journalism, communications, gender studies, religion, and reconciliation or peace and conflict studies. Among other amazing speakers, in recent semesters we have hosted author and historian Gershom Gorenberg; journalist and political commentator Mustafa Akyol; peace activist Robi Damelin; head of the Ramallah Friends Meeting Jean Zaru; political officers who deal directly with the Israel-Palestine conflict; members of parliament and local professors of gender studies, Islam, and Eastern Christianity.
At MESP we believe that listening to lectures and reading textbooks are only a portion of the study abroad experience. So we’ve designed several additional program components to help you get the most out of living in the Middle East. These components are designed to complement your classroom learning and assist with your intercultural development.
Orientation and Re-Entry
The travel component is one of the most exciting parts of MESP. Students travel to the region’s legendary holy and historic sites, hearing from experts in each area while also experiencing the hospitality of our friends in these diverse cities and countries. The best part: all of your expenses for the travel component (aside from souvenirs purchased on the trip) are covered by your MESP tuition!
Traveling as a student is much different than traveling as a tourist. Before landing in each country, you’ll receive experienced instruction and background information so you can enter the context with a grasp on local issues and politely engage in small talk. Once you’re on the ground, local tour guides and lecturers will get you acquainted with the country, its people, and its customs. We also make sure there’s enough free time in each locale for you to put your language skills to use as you chat with shopkeepers and waiters and explore the squares, markets, and museums.
Jordan is a country with a great diversity of places to visit and things to see, and our location in Amman gives us easy access to all the sites. You’ll have the option to travel on MESP-organized trips to the world wonder of Petra, the breathtaking desert of Wadi Rum (made famous in Lawrence of Arabia — and more recently The Martian and Star Wars IX), and the coral reef of Aqaba for snorkeling. We’ll also visit archaeological sites, such as Jerash and Ajloun castle, and Biblical sites, including Mt. Nebo and the site of Jesus’ baptism.
Though our exact schedule may change, we expect to travel to Egypt, Morocco, and Israel-Palestine (conditions permitting). In Cairo, Egypt, we’ll marvel at the Pyramids of Giza — the only remaining of the ancient wonders of the world. We’ll have tours of Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo, visit The Egypt Museum, and take a felucca ride down the Nile. In Morocco, we’ll visit one of the world’s oldest universities and the exquisite Hassan II mosque. You’ll wander the plaza of Jemaa El Fna in Marrakech by night and the labyrinth of Old Fes by day, where you can witness leather being made in the world’s oldest tannery. In Israel-Palestine, you’ll study the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and hear from renowned local speakers. You’ll have the opportunity to visit sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Church of the Nativity.
At MESP you won’t be a tourist; you’ll be a pilgrim. Students immerse themselves in Arab culture until they’re on a first-name basis with members of the community. Of course, you’ll get to see all the tourist sites too, with plenty of free time to explore. But you’ll likely spend most of that free time discussing in coffee shops, playing soccer with the neighborhood children, or bargaining with the shopkeepers as you get to know them.
You will be living in a furnished apartment in the western part of Amman, a city that is both contemporary and also traditionally Arab: it’s a bustling hub of activity attracting visitors from surrounding Arab countries. You’ll find plenty of great local food — have you heard of shawarma, falafal, and mansaf? — and coffee shops just around the corner. Plus, you won’t be far from Amman’s Old City, known as “the balad”, which is a great place for eating, shopping, and mingling with Jordanians.
Living in a Jordanian context will give you an opportunity to apply the intercultural skills you’re developing in class as you adapt to traditions different than your own. You’ll learn how to greet your neighbors properly, experience the importance of family in this culture, hear the Muslim call to prayer, and maybe even see a herd of sheep and goats wandering through your neighborhood.
As a MESP student you’ll have the privilege of participating in an intentional community — something we all work together to create. MESP students see each other everyday: you live together, eat together, go to class together, pray and praise together, and travel together. MESP cohorts are always a mixture of right and left, both religiously and politically, and we strive to foster a community of respect, where each voice can be heard and where the beliefs and thoughts of one can sharpen the whole group. Every day we seek to love, support, and challenge each other as outlined in a community covenant we each agree to at the beginning of the semester.
Jesus is also a central member of our community and we seek to integrate Him into our daily lives — to turn to His ways of reconciliation when problems arise, to stand by His principles of seeking unity and love, and to serve each other as He exemplified. In an intentional effort to focus on Jesus, we hold student-led devotions together three times a week. Plus, we keep Sunday mornings free so you have the opportunity to participate in local worship services.
Living: MESP students live in the same family apartment complex as the MESP staff. Our building is located in a quiet residential neighborhood within easy walking distance of stores, restaurants, coffee shops, banking, transportation, parks, and more. All of the apartments are fully furnished and have washing machines, dishwashers, and wireless internet. All female students share one large apartment, and male students share a second apartment adjacent to the MESP Center. Bedrooms are always shared (3-5 people/room), and occupancy varies depending on the size of each semester’s cohort.
Studying: While you can always study in your apartment, you’ll also have the opportunity to venture out into the city and discover your own favorite homework spot in one of the city’s hundreds of coffee shops (there are several in the immediate neighborhood). And, who knows, you might just find that the ruins of the Citadel are the best place to get some reading done!
Relaxing: When you’re not hanging out with your roommates in your apartment, Amman offers a wide range of places to relax. Depending on what you like to do, you will find parks where you can walk, jog, or just sit on the grass and talk with a friend; bowling alleys, movie theaters, and malls; and of course that classic Middle Eastern place to relax — the coffee shop!
Public transportation is readily available in Amman. Taxis are a common and affordable way of getting around West Amman. If you want to save more money, there’s also a shared taxi system and a bus system that we’ll help you learn how to use. And, though this may all sound a bit overwhelming now, rest assured, after just a few weeks of being here, you’ll be finding your way around like a pro!
The summer months (May – August) can be particularly hot with little precipitation. The weather gets gradually cooler and rainier throughout the fall semester. The spring semester starts in the middle of Jordan’s winter — which can get surprisingly cold! Though it won’t be cold for too long (outside, at least), the homes don’t have central heating, so you’ll be dressing in lots of layers. The weather will gradually warm up and you’ll get to experience the beautiful almond and olive trees in full bloom. Prior to packing, we recommend looking up specific temperature and rainfall averages.
True Middle Eastern Hospitality
The Middle East Studies Program is an interdisciplinary program that gives no preference to students in any particular field of study. However, a good academic record is necessary: students are required to maintain a GPA of at least 2.75 on a 4.0 scale, regardless of major.
MESP is designed for students in their second, third, or fourth year in college. All full-time students earning credit toward their degree are eligible.
HOW DO I APPLY?
Simply complete an online application for the semester during which you plan to participate. Each campus makes its own policies regarding off-campus study, so you should consult your academic dean, off-campus study coordinator, and/or advising faculty member at your school to ensure completion of all campus requirements.
Before your application can be reviewed for admission, you must submit all of the following materials:
- A completed online application form
- $50 application fee (payable by check or credit card)
- One faculty reference
- One character reference
- Official transcript(s) of all college course work
- Certification Form
Fall 2021 Semester Dates:
|Application available until (or spots are filled)||May 15|
|MESP begins on arrival||Aug 30|
|MESP concludes||Dec 10|
Spring 2022 Semester Dates:
|Application available until (or spots are filled)||Nov 1|
|MESP begins on arrival||Jan 10|
|MESP concludes||Apr 22|
YAY! MY APPLICATION WAS ACCEPTED! NOW WHAT?
Once admitted into the program, you will be required to confirm your intent to participate by submitting a non-refundable $300 confirmation fee, which will be applied toward your program tuition.
You will also be required to complete additional confirmation and pre-departure materials, including but not limited to: waiver and liability forms, a medical information form, a housing form, and proof of international medical insurance. But don’t worry! We will send you all of the details and instructions upon acceptance.
HOW MUCH DO I PAY & WHAT’S INCLUDED?
Typically, the only expenses MESP participants pay directly to the CCCU are the application fee ($50) and the non-refundable confirmation fee ($300, deducted from the total housing fee at invoicing).
About six weeks before each semester begins, the CCCU sends participation invoices to each home campus. For the 2021-22 school year, that bill will feature the below MESP semester costs.
|MESP PROGRAM FEES|
|Room & Board||$3,900|
|TOTAL MESP FEES||$16,750*
|BALANCE OF MESP FEES||$16,450*
*6 credit Arabic students only +$500
Keep in mind the total program costs billed to you through your school may differ, depending on your campus’s policies.
Note: Schools or individuals who pay with a credit card will also be charged a credit card service fee.
Expenses Covered by MESP Fees:
- Recommended 16 hours of academic credit
- Full Board (A weekly stipend for personal groceries, plus some shared meals. All meals will also be provided during regional travel.)
- Washing machines are available at no cost (must provide own detergent, softener — easily available at local grocery store)
- All necessary expenses during required program-related travel (approx 2-3 weeks of regional travel, plus additional local excursions)
Additional Anticipated Expenses*:
- Travel between home and Amman, Jordan
- International medical insurance (can be purchased through CCCU GlobalEd) valid in Jordan and all travel component countries for length of stay/duration of program. This is required for participation in CCCU GlobalEd’s international programs. Note: Some campuses will provide this for students studying abroad; check with your study abroad office to see if this is provided by your home campus.
- Visa ($85, purchased upon arrival in Jordan airport)
- Textbooks (approx. $150)
- Local transportation, if not class-related (approx $15 per week)
- Personal medical expenses, if incurred
- Personal discretionary expenditures, including personal travel
- Passport (required for program participation)
Middle East Studies Program participants are responsible for booking their own travel between their homes and the program, which means that they will travel to and from Jordan on their own. Students must plan travel arrangements to allow for participation in all required program activities. Program housing is not available outside of program dates.
MESP staff will meet students at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman (within a given time frame) and transport them to MESP’s orientation location. MESP students will receive all the information needed for travel, including specific arrival and departure timeframes, upon acceptance to the program.
HOW DOES BILLING WORK FOR MESP PARTICIPATION?
The Middle East Studies Program (MESP) is an extension campus of each member institution of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU); each school grants the academic credit for program participation.
The CCCU invoices campuses for the cost of MESP participation and in turn campuses bill their students following the campus’s established policies and procedures. (For example, some schools charge the exact fees of the off-campus program, other schools charge the campus tuition price, while others charge full on-campus fees plus an additional off-campus study fee. And there’s every variation in between!)
Since each school determines their own policies regarding off-campus study costs and the applicability of institutional scholarships and other aid, you should confirm your school’s policies with the Off-Campus Study Coordinator on your campus.
*Anticipated expenses are estimates that will be updated should local costs shift significantly. You may spend more/less depending on your personal spending habits.
Know Before You Go…
For the latest updates on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit our COVID-19 Response page.
Studying off campus can be an exciting time filled with adventure and personal growth. Prepare yourself in advance for challenges you might face on the program. Students at MESP should anticipate:
- Living in close-quarters, as MESP students share apartments (men and women separate) with bunk beds, shared bathrooms, kitchens, and communal spaces with limited alone time.
- Daily life in the city of Amman: engaging local Jordanians, taking taxis, shopping and exploring, and experiencing potentially dramatic changes in diet, climate, and social life.
- Walking extensively, sometimes on rough terrain or sidewalks that are uneven.
- Travelling twice per semester for up to two weeks at a time in locations where there are emergency medical services but very limited support services and counseling services.
- Spending up to two weeks in Israel/Palestine, with long days of local travel, site visits, and lectures.
- Travelling in contexts in which there is a regular presence of armed soldiers and police and a high level of tension.
- Experiencing significant cultural differences regarding gender and racial tensions, and the frequent possibility of negative attention (especially verbal).
- Experiencing potentially challenging personal, religious, and cultural learning, lectures, field trips, and assignments.
Perhaps when you hear about a study abroad program in the Middle East, the first question that comes to mind is, “Is it safe?” Based on Western media coverage, it’s easy to see this region as chaotic and insecure, when travel in the Middle East is in fact possible and safe. Jordan is an area of relative calm in the midst of the Middle East’s shifting politics and conflicts. Let us tell you about the Jordan we know!
Amman is as safe as (or safer than) any U.S. city of comparable size: crime rates are low, people look out for each other, and our students feel safe hanging out, taking taxis, going to church (there are a lot of local Christians here), walking the streets, and so on. MESP students and staff live in a family building in West Amman that houses the MESP community along with several members of our landlord’s family. The neighborhood itself is a mix of family homes, businesses, and hotels, with cafes and classy restaurants nearby, and the neighborhood police station is at the end of our street.
The safety and security of our students is our number one priority. During orientation, we prepare students for how to act in culturally appropriate ways that contribute to overall safety. Our staff constantly monitors the news; checks in with the U.S. Embassy (10 min away), the U.S. State Department, and the local police department (just up the street); and regularly follows up with our network of local and international security advisors. Our director and his family have lived in the Middle East region for over 35 years, raising four children here, and all our staff in Jordan are certified in Red Cross First Aid and Mental Health First Aid. Rest assured you’ll be in good hands!
Here are a few statistics that compare safety in Jordan to the U.S. and other countries:
Medical care in Jordan is generally excellent by Western standards. We have a trusted list of clinics and hospitals that deliver high-quality care.
You will be required to cover any medical expenses you incur while a student at MESP. We will require you to show proof of international medical coverage before your arrival in Amman. We partner with Cultural Insurance Service International (CISI) to provide discounted international medical coverage. You can view the current schedule of benefits for our customized coverage through CISI here.
Safety and Travel
Your safety is our primary concern, and MESP staff (who have more than 30 years of experience in the region) use all available sources — news, locals, experienced expatriates, CCCU contacts, U.S. diplomats, etc. — in order to assess safety conditions in Jordan and wherever MESP travels.
Although safety cannot be absolutely guaranteed anywhere, we would never invite you for a semester in Amman if we did not believe it was safe. Complete avoidance or predictability of risk is impossible, but avoiding problematic areas and practicing preventative measures (we’ll give you detailed instruction on this during orientation), greatly reduces any threat of danger. In the event of an emergency, precautions will be taken to ensure that you are kept out of danger. Our Arab hosts work with our staff to make certain that your study experience is as problem-free as possible.
When it comes to our three-week travel component, we monitor the situation in each of our planned destinations very carefully and won’t hesitate to change the itinerary if we feel a location is unsafe. If a portion of the trip is canceled, we will make every effort to create other opportunities that are safe yet equally valuable in learning about the region.
LETTER FROM A MESP PARENT
Our daughter attended the MESP seminar in Amman, Jordan, her spring semester of 2017. Her goal was to immerse herself in the Muslim culture in preparation for [returning long-term to] the Arab world. Her experience was incredible. She was exposed to the people, food, and culture of Amman, as well as Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Morocco. Much of her education centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the prospect of resolution. Arabic learning was another important part of the program. We were thoroughly amazed to hear her haggle with a taxi driver over the price of our ride; she learned a great deal of Arabic in a short period of time, which endeared her to most taxi drivers, even though she was trying to bargain them down.
We were fortunate enough to be able to visit our daughter in Amman half way through her semester and spend some time with her in between classes. We met with Dr. Doug and Patti as well as the other students and were thoroughly impressed by the quality of the program and the caliber of both the instructors and the students. Because the program has such a good reputation, we felt confident sending our 19-year-old daughter to the Middle East. However, once we arrived in Amman, we were delighted to find her living in a safe, comfortable apartment complex in a quiet, family neighborhood. We stayed in a lovely hotel a ten-minute walk from the MESP center and felt perfectly safe walking through the neighborhood at night. Our daughter felt completely safe and at home at the center. We all found the Jordanian people warm, friendly and welcoming.
We highly recommend the MESP program in Amman. Our daughter learned more than we even hoped for and God used the experience to fuel her passion for and calling to the Muslim people. In addition, our eyes and hearts were opened in new ways to the Arab culture through our own experience as well as our daughter’s.
— Ron & Nicole Dunaetz, parents of a MESP Spring 2017 alumna
You’ve heard a great deal about the Middle East, but the region is vast and ever-changing. Read the FAQ below to find out more about your location!
Where does the program take place?
What is the climate like?
Will I get to travel throughout the semester?
How can you get in touch with MESP classmates and new local friends? How will you stay up to date on what is happening back home? Communication and technology work a bit differently in Amman than in the United States. Read the FAQ below to find out more.
Will I be able to use a cell phone?
How can I best communicate back home?
Can I have visitors while I’m in the Middle East?
Should I bring a laptop or tablet with me?
What do you need to know before you step on that plane? Read the FAQ below to find out.
How will I get to and from the program?
Will I need a passport?
Will I need a visa?
Academic learning has rarely been this adventurous. Whether in or out of the classroom, you’ll be learning through experience, immersion, and service. Read the FAQ below to find out more.
What do classes look like at MESP?
Who will be teaching my classes?
How many credits will I receive, and what exactly will I be studying?
Will there be opportunities to serve during my semester at MESP?
Can I study a language?
One of the most thrilling and challenging aspects of learning about Middle Eastern culture is actually participating in it. Read below for help in answering these questions.
Will I need to know the language?
Will I be interacting with local people? What are they like?
How does life in Amman compare to life in an American city?
COMMUNITY AND DAILY LIFE
Read the FAQ below to find out more about everyday life in the Middle East!
Where will I live?
What will I eat?
Some students and parents worry about whether it is safe to study in Amman and travel in the Middle East. Rest assured: safety is the number one priority of the Middle East Studies Program. See below for common questions about security.