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Critical Language Enhancement Award

U.S. Fulbright

Making Friends in Unexpected Places

September 28, 2015
Philmon H.

Philmon Haile, 2014-2015, Jordan (right), with Abu Abed pouring tea after a delicious meal

After arriving in Amman, Jordan for the second time, I was very excited to see my old friends that I had made when I visited in 2013. Most of all, I was excited to reconnect with Abu Abed, the security guard at the language school where I studied during the summer of 2013, which is also the same school where I completed my Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA). I did not tell him I would be coming back, wanting to surprise him. When I walked into the language school, he was shocked, immediately greeting me with kisses.

He is sort of a jack of all trades, and through our conversations, I have learned so much about Jordan’s history, language, and people. I would share stories about my hometown, Seattle. I would tell my story of being resettled in the United States as a refugee when I was a child, and talk about the diversity that makes the United States great and unique.

As a refugee from Eritrea, I connected with Abu Abed because he is one of millions of Palestinian-Jordanians who are refugees of previous conflicts. From our conversations and because of my background, I was inspired to learn more about issues facing current Syrian refugees in Jordan. Combining that desire and my passion for working with youth, after my CLEA, I decided to research the conditions of refugee youth through a research-orientated internship with the UN Refugee Agency.

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