Andrew Jarnagin believes that coming to grips with the complicated issues involving Middle East refugees is in the long-term best interests of the United States due to the role refugees have played in policy considerations in Israel and Jordan.
With those issues in mind, Andrew plans to forge a career not with the idea that he can resolve all the dilemmas facing Middle East refugees, but that he can play a key part in the efforts to act as agents of peace for the region.
A UGA Honors student majoring in history and Arabic who in May received a Boren Scholarship, Andrew will spend seven months in Amman, Jordan, striving to become fluent in Modern Standard Arabic and acquiring a working knowledge of the Jordanian dialect.
“These skills will allow me to access the media of the Arab world: news sources, music, and literature,” the Atlanta native, who will study at the Qasid Institute through AMIDEAST’s language and area studies program, says. “Additionally, communication with native speakers will become less of an obstacle to overcome and more of an instrument to develop relationships and exchange ideas.”
Andrew, who will also take classes in Islamic thought, environmental politics, and international relations in the Middle East, will spend a portion of his time in Jordan living with a host family and “experiencing life in a Levantine household.”
A National Merit Scholar, Eagle Scout, and Presidential Scholar, Andrew had a previous study abroad experience living with a family in Morocco, which was critical to his understanding of the culture and concerns of average citizens. While in Jordan, he also hopes to host weekly language exchanges with a Jordanian student learning English and work in a Syrian refugee camp.
“I am most looking forward to getting to know the Jordanians I come into contact with in everyday life,” Andrew, who while at UGA has written for the Georgia Political Review and volunteered as Casa de Amistad, says. “I spent the summer of 2013 in Morocco, and I found that I had some of my most meaningful interactions with the taxi drivers, vegetable sellers, and cafe owners I met. It's a great way to break the bubble of the study abroad program and gain some real cultural knowledge.”
At the conclusion of his Jordan residency, Andrew will return to the U.S. to write his senior thesis on Middle Eastern history, which is where his knowledge of Arabic will be pivotal.
Upon graduation, Andrew’s professional plans are centered on returning to the Middle East to fulfill the service requirements of his Boren scholarship (either with the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research or the Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration) and then working toward a career in the Foreign Service.
And all along the way, he’ll be happily polishing his Arabic-speaking abilities.
“My interest in Arabic is not solely a function of its utility on a resume,” Andrew, who is also fluent in Spanish, says. “A day that I don’t interact with the language in some way – a conversation, a few pages from a book – feels incomplete…Nothing would make me happier than to return to the Arab world to devote the entirety of my focus to the language I love.”
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