Monday, June 21, 2010

Orientation, and Al Marshallan

My first taste of the Qasid Institute came during our orientation session this morning. We took a 2-hour placement exam, got an intro to Amman and to the language program, and had a brief oral interview. I feel fine about the tests - I didn't get everything, but since it's a diagnostic, I guess that's only natural. I get my final placement tomorrow.

According to Qasid's descriptions, I'm right between class levels. Either I skip about three chapters to jump ahead to Book 3, or I fall back four chapters and spend some time reviewing. At this point, I'd prefer the latter; I could really use the review, and I'd worry that such a big jump forward would require tons of homework and extra tutoring on the side. If I pick the lower class, I'll have a few lighter weeks at the start... not totally objectionable during the summer. Maybe use the extra time to hit the Dead Sea again?

While I have yet to try the instruction, I continue to be very impressed with Qasid itself. Their publicity materials were polished from the start, and pre-arrival communication was great. I got several packets of information at various stages of my application and travel, all of which were thoughtful, helpful, and showed that someone is clearly thinking these issues through. Qasid can help to find housing, rent you a cell phone, put you up for a couple of days if you need housing when you get in... they really have had their sh*t together from day one (especially compared to some other academic programs I have tried in this part of the world...)

This continued today. Exam questions were clear and weren't just taken straight from the textbook. The facilities themselves are attractive, clean, and organized. We met the director of the program and the student affairs coordinator, both of whom gave brief, funny, and helpful introduction sessions. It's also right across the street from a really good and cheap falafel place. That last fact is perhaps the most pertinent. Again, hard to judge a place on day one, without having experienced the teaching. But I like what I see so far.

Another interesting development - I met another student named Marshall in the program. For the first time in my life, I have to deal with another kid named Marshall in my classes. I have to introduce myself as "one of two" Marshalls, and be sure to give my last name. I turn around every time someone calls for his attention instead of mine. Calling out "Hey, Marshall!" to someone else is a weird experience. Arabic has a specific form for the dual - add "an" or "ein" to the end of a word - so I guess that makes the two of us "Al Marshallan" for the summer...

Tomorrow is a day trip to Ajloun. No idea what or where this is - people tell me it is the site of a castle built by Saladin about an hour north of the city. Sounds like a fun way to spend a couple of hours. It'll be our last bit of fun before classes start on Wednesday.

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