Amman, Jordan

Columbia Summer in Amman and Tunis: Middle Eastern and North African Studies

Term: Summer

Learn a full year of Modern Standard Arabic while examining the history and culture of the Maghreb.


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This nine week summer program allows students to strengthen their skills in Modern Standard Arabic while being introduced to the history in the intersecting regions of the Maghreb and the Middle East. Students spend the first 4 weeks of the program at Columbia's Global Center in Amman. At the midpoint of the program, they move to Tunis where they spend the second month. Over the course of the program, they take the equivalent of a year of Modern Standard Arabic and receive training in local dialects of both the Mashrek and the Maghreb. The language program is complemented by a cultural and historical seminar featuring lectures by prominent specialists from Columbia university and partner institutions in the Middle East and North Africa. The seminar counts for the global core requirement and the theme for the 2019 session is Maghreb-Mashrek, East and West: Tunis and Amman in Historical Perspective.

Program Overview

This program runs overseas from the end of May through late July in both Amman and Tunis. The MENA seminar will begin in April in New York. Students will be required to attend the 2 mandatory sessions in New York on May 3 (10 am until 12 pm) and May 7 (10 am until 2 pm). During the program, all students complete one full year of Arabic, starting with Part 1 of the designated year. The following Modern Standard Arabic courses will be offered this summer:

  • First Year
  • Second Year
  • Third Year
  • Fourth Year

*Please note that Modern Standard Arabic course offerings are subject to cancellation if enrollment is low.*

Students also take a 3 credit global core seminar that introduces them to important dimensions of the history and culture of the regions they are visiting and provides a rich context for their language study.

The seminar and the language courses are connected in multiple ways. One of the literary works that students read in translation in the seminar is also studied in Arabic in the language program. Films with dialogue in darija dialect are analyzed for their linguistic content in the language classes and from a cultural perspective in the seminar. Finally, students’ work in the seminar comes up in conversation practice in the MSA and dialect classes.

The program is relevant to Middle-East Studies students seeking to broaden their knowledge of North Africa and the Middle East. Linking fields and disciplines, the program gives students the opportunity to develop the linguistic skills and background knowledge necessary to conduct cross-regional projects and to interrogate geo-cultural boundaries.

The program begins in New York with two preliminary sessions of the MENA seminar. These preliminary sessions will introduce the issues raised in the course as well as important conceptual and historical frameworks.

At Columbia University’s Global Center in Amman, students study Modern Standard Arabic and receive training on the Mashreki (Jordanian/Levantine) dialect. Local dialect is introduced during the orientation in order to help students navigate Amman. The cultural seminar continues with a program of lectures, film screenings, and field visits complimented by short writing assignments. After a one week travel break, the program reconvenes at the Global Center in Tunis, they continue the study of Modern Standard Arabic and choose among Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian dialect classes. The cultural seminar continues with a program of reading, discussion and field visits combined with writing assignments.

Eligibility and Application

  • Must be a currently enrolled undergraduate student in good academic standing. Graduate students and post-graduates may also apply.

  • No prior language study required for first year Arabic.

  • Minimum 3.0 average language GPA (if applicable)

  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA

  • Background in French and or Arabic helpful, but not required. (Students with advanced French language skills may read relevant materials in French and have the option to complete some written assignments in French.)


Please note that all applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis so we do encourage you to submit a complete application as soon as possible.

Want to apply? Click the “Apply Now” button above. If the button doesn't appear above, the program is not yet accepting applications. You will be asked to set up a short profile, which will allow us to send you relevant information about your application. Once you’ve created a profile, you will see a checklist of items that you will need to submit. These generally include:

  • Application questionnaire(s)
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Home school approval/clearance
  • Language assessment (if applicable)


Students enroll in a Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) course at the appropriate level for 10 points In addition to classroom time, students have access to office hours held by faculty and Teaching Assistants. Students at all language levels enroll in the MENA seminar, for which they receive an additional 3 credits. The seminar counts towards one of Columbia University's Global Core Requirements. PhD-level students choose between taking the seminar or conducting an independent research project. This must be approved at the time of applying to the program. Courses are taught by Columbia and by local faculty trained by Columbia faculty.

Students complete the equivalent of a full year of Arabic and are awarded 13 points of Columbia University credit upon successful completion of the full program. No credit is granted to students who do not complete the full program.

Note: The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary. Also, depending on final enrollment numbers, certain levels may only be offered in the Summer in Amman program. Students will therefore have the option to switch into that program.

Mena Seminar

W4100: Maghreb-Mashrek, East and West: Tunis and Amman in Historical Perspective, 3 Points

Counts towards one of Columbia University's Global Core requirements.

Course Description

Maghreb and Mashrek are generally approached separately as different regions with distinct histories of colonial rule and different linguistic legacies. Yet intellectuals and political actors in the Maghreb have long sought to integrate their history and culture into that of wider Arabic-speaking world and recent events such as the upheavals of the ‘Arab spring’ have drawn attention to shared social and political conditions. In this course, we bridge the conventional divide between Maghreb and Mashrek by looking at historical intersections and parallels with a particular focus on the MENA program host countries of Jordan and Tunisia and their capital cities. Though different in many ways, these nations, both surrounded by larger, more turbulent countries, share a history of diplomatic and cultural navigation between the moving poles of ‘East’ and ‘West.’ The course will be cross-disciplinary, drawing on history, political science, sociology and anthropology, with special attention to literature and cinema as sites of the imaginative and critical exploration of identity, conflict and social change.

Course Organization

The seminar meets 12 times over the course of the summer. The first two sessions will be held on the Columbia campus in New York before departure for Amman on May 3 and May 7. These preliminary sessions will introduce the issues raised in the course as well as important conceptual and historical frameworks. The remaining meetings will take different forms, including discussion of readings and films, meetings with local scholars and writers and field trips to sites of interest. Given the considerable amount of homework required to cover the equivalent of a year of Arabic in a little over 2 months and our hope that students will spend some time discovering the two cities in which the program is based, readings will be limited to 40 pages per class with the exception of four novels, which are to be read in their entirety.

Course Requirements

The course is conducted in English. Readings are posted on Courseworks, with the exception of novels, which students can order from the Columbia Bookstore, Book Culture or another vendor of their choice. For texts written in Arabic or French students may choose to read either the original or the English translation.

The seminar carries 3 credits. Grades will be determined as follows:

  • Attendance, preparation and active participation in discussions: 30%
  • 8 responses to prompts linked to readings/films (1-2 pages): 40%
  • Final paper on a topic chosen by student (5-7 pages): 30%

Language Courses

Students enroll in one of the following levels:

MDES 1210-11: First Year Modern Standard Arabic I-II, 10 Points

• Read and write in Arabic (i.e. be familiar with the letters and the sounds).
• Initiate, respond to, and maintain simple conversation on familiar topics, such as who you are, what you do, your family, and your studies.
• Read simple passages on familiar topics and understand their content with the help of a dictionary.
• Write simple compositions on familiar topics, such as your typical day, a description of your family, or your hometown.
• Start becoming familiar with certain aspects of Arab cultures and societies, especially Jordan.

MDES 1214-15: Second Year Modern Standard Arabic I-II, 10 Points

• Discuss general and specific topics, such as traveling, mass media in the Arab world, and Arab universities.
• Understand the main points of lectures and radio and television news programs.
• Read and understand the main ideas of any non-technical text with the help of a dictionary.
• Write short compositions on familiar topics and express opinions.
• Research, discuss, and be familiar with a number of issues pertaining to Arab cultures and history, especially Jordan.

MDES 4210-11: Third Year Modern Standard Arabic I-II, 10 Points

• Read and understand various types of newspaper articles (descriptive, narrative, argumentative, etc.), and essays and literary texts on various topics, with the help of a dictionary.
• Listen to and understand the main points of a speech, lecture, or news broadcast.
• Discuss a number of general and specialized topics and be able to describe, narrate, argue a point, and express opinions.
• Write cohesive and articulate summaries, accounts, and critical pieces about the same topics.
• Begin to recognize and use formal and informal registers in appropriate situations.
• Learn about the history, politics, cultures, and societies of the Arab World, especially Jordan.

MDES 4212-13 Fourth Year Arabic I-II, 10 points

• Read and understand various types of articles and essays (argumentative) on various topics with some help of a dictionary.
• Listen to and understand the main points of a speech or academic lecture.
• Discuss a number of specialized topics and be able to describe, narrate, argue a point, and illustrate with examples.
• Write cohesive and articulate summaries, accounts and critical pieces about the same topics.
• Learn about the history, politics, culture and societies of the Arab World.

Grades and Transcripts

Grading Policy

Click here for the Columbia summer program grading policies.


Upon successful completion of the program, grades are entered into Columbia's online grading system.

No credit is granted to students who do not complete the full program.

All courses taken on the program are converted to an American grading scale and transmitted to students as follows:

Columbia students: Grades appear on SSOL and your transcript as semester grades from courses taken at Columbia. For more information, please see the section on Academic Credit in Steps to Study Abroad.

Barnard students: Grades appear on eBear and your transcript as any semester grades from courses taken at Barnard. For more information, please see the section on Credit and Transcripts for Barnard Students on our Barnard student pages.

Non-Columbia students: can request electronic transcripts online through the Columbia University registrar.

Life in Amman and Tunis


In Amman, students will have a choice between living with a host family or sharing double/triple rooms in furnished apartments. Generally, the program tries to secure accommodation between the center of Amman and the Columbia University Global center. In past years, student apartments were located in Deir Ghbar, Sixth Circle, and Oum Udhayna while homestays were mostly in Fuhais. Amman housing fees are included in the program fee below.

NOTE: Students requesting funding that covers only educational costs (i.e. Columbia PhD students receiving the GSAS summer tuition grant) should confirm the housing portion of the fee upon acceptance. Many scholarships do not cover housing costs.

In Tunis, students will live in individual rooms in shared student apartments. The apartments will be furnished.


While in Amman, students can have lunch at the Center cafeteria on days on which classes are held for a cost of about 3 JD per day. Otherwise they are responsible for their own meals. The system for lunch payment will be explained at orientation.

A meal at a local restaurant with Jordanian food is usually not very expensive, though places that cater to foreigners and offer western foods tend to be more expensive and prices can be similar to those in the U.S.

In Tunis, students are also responsible for their own meals. While there is not a cafeteria in the Center, there are options for well-priced food in the area.


Course-related field trips and cultural activities are organized to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their language skills and deepen their understanding of language, history, and culture. In Jordan, past trips have gone to Petra and Wadi Rum. In Tunis, field trips will include visits to Ancient Carthage, Old Medina, and Kairouan and Raqqada.

Daily Living and Schedule

In both Amman and Tunis, students enroll in four hours of Arabic (9 am until 1 pm), five days a week. While in Amman, the final hour of each class is devoted to local Mashreqi dialect and to oral practice. While in Tunis, the final hour of class 3 days a week is devoted to Maghrebi dialect known as dirija. The seminar meets for 2 two-hour sessions in New York in April or May and will usually meet twice a week in Amman and Tunis (the schedule will be adjusted to reflect site visits and film screenings).

All students are required to arrive a day before the mandatory orientation begins. Orientation in Amman is one day and classes start the following day. There is a week break in the middle of the program (dates to be announced) during which many students choose to travel outside of Amman or Tunis. There will be an orientation in Tunis with classes starting the next day.


The program is hosted by Columbia's Global Centers in Amman and Tunis.


Amman, the capital of Jordan, is situated in the hills between the desert and the fertile Jordan valley. Ancient biblical sites, Roman ruins, and contemporary structures exist side by side in this modern and cosmopolitan city with a thriving cultural scene. With a diverse population and a reputation for hospitality, Amman provides an ideal base for students to learn Arabic and gain a deeper understanding of the region. While in Amman, students benefit from daily exposure to Arabic language, culture and history and have the opportunity to visit important cultural and historical sites


The second part of the program will be based at the Columbia Global Center in Tunis.



Students will be supported by Staff at both the Columbia Global Center: Amman and the Columbia Global Center: Tunis. Designated staff members will be available to the students on a daily basis.


Madeleine Dobie (instructor for the MENA seminar) is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She works on contemporary francophone/postcolonial literature and cinema of France and the Maghreb and on French Enlightenment culture. She is the author of Foreign Bodies. Gender, Language and Culture in French Orientalism (Stanford University Press, ’01, ’03) and Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture (Cornell University Press 2010) and co-author, with Myriam Cottias, of Relire Mayotte Capécia : une femme des Antilles dans l’espace colonial français (Armand-Colin, 2012). She is coeditor of a special issue of Comparative Studies of Africa, South Asia and the Middle East entitled ‘France in Africa/Africa(ns) in France’ (2005), and the author of many articles and Op-Eds on contemporary French and francophone culture. She is currently working on a book titled After Violence: Culture and Politics in Contemporary Algeria, which deals both with the memory of violence (the violence of the Independence struggle and the more recent conflict of the 1990s) and with the emergence of new cultural forms and institutions.

Taoufik Ben Amor (Director and Arabic language instructor) received his B.A.from the University of Tunis I (1985) and Doctorate from the University of Tunis I (1991). Prof. Ben Amor specializes in Arabic language and linguistics, language and identity, Arab music, and music in Sufism. His research combines his interests in music, language and identity in the Arab world through the study of lyrics. His most recent papers are entitled "Language through Literature" and “The Making of Tradition: Standardization of the Lyrics of the Tunisian Andalusian Malouf.” He published a textbook on Tunisian Arabic in 1988, and Developing Writing Skills in Arabic (Routledge in 2013). He recently completed an online grammar video series entitled Al-Manha. Other papers he wrote include “States of Mind: Music in Islamic Sufi rituals,” “The Politics of Language and the Formalization of the Iraqi Maqam,” and “Code Switching in Algerian Rai Music.” Prof. Ben Amor is currently working on a book project: The Making of Tradition: Language, Music and Identity in the Arab World. Professor Ben Amor is also an active musician and music producer.

Financial Considerations


Program Fee Summer 2019 $11,000*: Includes tuition, housing in Amman, and program sponsored excursions.

Please see our cost breakdown for detailed information on additional estimated expenses.

*Pending approval. Please note tuition and fees are subject to Board of Trustee approval and may change

Financial Aid and Scholarships

If you are on financial aid, check to see if it can be applied to studying abroad. In general, summer financial aid is not available to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering students, but may be available to School of General Studies students. Non-Columbia students should check with their home schools for funding availability.

Funding Your Summer in Amman and Tunis

Eligible students may apply for the following scholarships applicable to this program:

David L. Boren Scholarship:

Summer-only programs must be eight (8) weeks or more and are limited to science, technology, engineering and mathematics students.

Foreign Language and Area Studies Scholarship (FLAS):

Find out who administers the summer FLAS program at your home school. Columbia students can check the website above.

Columbia students may also be eligible to apply for the following scholarship:

Summer Language Fellowships for International Students:

  • Deadline: February 26
  • Open to international students

The Summer Language Fellowship for International Students supports international PhD students in the humanities and social sciences who need to study a foreign language abroad during the summer.

PDF iconTheodore de Bary Language Study Fellowship

The Theodore de Bary Language Study Fellowship supports undergraduate language
study during summer. The de Bary Fellowship is earmarked for students who are not
American citizens or permanent residents. The fellowship administered by the Middle
East Institute is for students studying Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish. It offers up to
$8000 towards summer program tuition and living expenses. Preference is given to
students who have achieved a high level of proficiency in the target language.

  • Deadline: February 15
For more general information and resources on financing your time abroad, please see the pages below:

Withdrawal Policy

If you decide to withdraw from the program once it has already started, please be aware of the financial consequences and the office policies by clicking here.

Resources for Accepted Students

Fact Sheet

Foreign Language Learning, Humanities
Barnard College, Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Columbia General Studies, Columbia Graduate Students, Columbia Undergraduates, Non-Columbia Graduate Students, Non-Columbia Undergraduates

Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline: 
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Admissions Decision Date: 
Monday, March 25, 2019
Program Dates: 
Friday, May 31, 2019 to Friday, August 2, 2019
Rolling Admissions