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Midshipmen Spend Semester Immersed in Omani Culture

Posted on: August 22, 2013 08:00 EDT by International Programs Office

Midshipmen 1st Class Brett Beeson, George Davros, and Jacob Snyder share their experience studying abroad in Oman during spring semester:

When we first travelled to Oman in January 2013, one question dominated our families’ minds.

“Have they gone crazy?”

Two others quickly followed: “Wait, where is Oman? Is it safe?”

Oman, more formally known as the Sultanate of Oman, is a little-known country located north of Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the strategically critical Strait of Hormuz, through which travels 20 percent of the world’s petroleum supply. Despite its key geographic position in a region known for its volatility, Oman rarely makes headlines.

The country is led by Sultan Qaboos, who initiated a cultural renaissance 40 years ago when he overthrew his father in a military-led coup. Oman now prides itself on its tranquility and distance from all forms of controversy.

The country maintains a state of peace and comfort, a haven for all travelers regardless of nationality. Oman’s unique blend of modernity and tradition incorporates the best of 21st century technology and innovation while holding onto its own rich cultural identity, making it the ideal destination for travel in the Arab world.

In other words, we had most decidedly not gone crazy. On the contrary, we had been given the chance of a lifetime.

Each day began with six hours of strict Arabic study at the Center for International Learning, located in the seaside capital of Oman, Muscat. We participated in Modern Standard Arabic, media Arabic, and conversation classes, in addition to two hours of time with “peer facilitators” – local Omanis who came to provide the center’s students with valuable cultural insight in addition to guiding and correcting our language development.

We also attended a research class devoted to further exploration of the history of the region, putting Oman’s current state into context within the rest of the Gulf.

Arabic study extended far beyond the classroom, however. Outside school, we stayed with host families, giving us the opportunity to further explore the culture of the country and practice our Arabic with the local population, who were extremely friendly, warm and generous.

We noted several things about the culture. Omani teenagers, though perhaps dressed differently than their American counterparts, were really not all that different. We also appreciated just how tight-knit Omani families were, providing a model of support and love.

Though we originally traveled to the sultanate for the express purpose of Arabic study, our months within this Arab country taught us many lifelong lessons, providing us with an unforgettable, priceless experience.

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