Discovering Myself Through Others

Aidan MacGregor is a recent high school graduate from Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago, Illinois. Soon, he will be attending Hampshire College in Massachusetts where he plans to continue studying languages; he will continue his education of Arabic, officially learn Ancient Greek, and study linguistics. 

20170707_154710The flight to Jordan is eleven hours long, and I feel like it went pretty well. Aside from a poor charger port, everything about the flight was fine. David – another Lindblom student – and I scored the last two seats on the plane, in the last row. It was only two seats wide, which meant we could have some more comfortable seating. It was quite fun to fly with David because he had never even flown before. He kept discovering interesting things that I honestly had never considered, like when we were ascending, and we held a bottle of water level, the water would press against the side of the bottle.

We ate shortly after takeoff, and I enjoyed my fish and rice. However, I was unaware that on the return trip, the fish would be the wrong choice. After eating, David and I amused ourselves by studying Arabic for a while: we decided to use the in-flight entertainment to do so. We switched one of our in-flight entertainment screens to Arabic, kept one in-flight entertainment screen set to English, and compared the two. Throughout the duration of our trip, David and I spent most of time trying to speak better Arabic.
Once the flight landed, baggage claim was a drag, literally. The drive to the hotel was pretty exhausting too, or maybe it was the fact I hadn’t slept at all on the flight. Nevertheless, we were in Jordan! Every building we passed was a remarkable sight! And the desert was amazing; I had never been in one before.

Once the flight landed, baggage claim was a drag, literally. The drive to the hotel was pretty exhausting too, or maybe it was the fact I hadn’t slept at all on the flight. Nevertheless, we were in Jordan! Every building we passed was a remarkable sight! And the desert was amazing; I had never been in one before.

20170708_125826During our first interactions with the other International Arab Youth Congress attendees, I tried my best to interact with them. I sang with them and for them after dinner, but I didn’t feel like I had made the best impression that I could have. As it turns out I made quite an impression. They were surprised that I could speak Arabic, and they were even more surprised that all of us could speak Arabic. Also, many amazing singers and musicians were there that first night and, despite my nervousness to talk with many of them in Arabic, they all were eager to talk to me in English. I found myself wishing I knew the lyrics to more popular English songs, but all I thought I knew was One Week by Barenaked Ladies and Counting Stars by One Republic.

This was the pattern for the remainder of the Congress, actually. I kept believing that I was making a fool of myself, but I was constantly reassured by everyone present that I wasn’t! I immediately made friends, who would tell me that I should speak more Arabic and not be afraid to socialize, despite my nervousness. As I write this now, I realize that many of those individuals have became my good friends by literally walking up to me and introducing themselves. I was amazed every day.

I went on this trip to discover a new culture, a new part of the world, and immerse myself in a new language. What I found was not what I expected. Within myself, I found a new capacity to make friends. In others, I found a group of people who seemed to be my friends as soon as I met them. On this trip, I discovered that it takes less than I initially thought to bring people together, and it takes more than a language, an eleven-hour flight, and culture shock to drive people apart.