Written by current student Caleb Sorenson (Kings University, Edmonton, AB, Canada)
I really loved sports as a kid. I was always playing soccer, basketball, and street hockey with my friends. Junior High and High School were both filled with various different teams and sporting events. As I grew older, I realized that sports were not everything in life (it was quite the revelation at the time) and since then I have become more passionate in studying humanities. Hence, coming to the Middle East to study.
However, I was pleasantly surprised that my love for sports could be an entrance to interact with so many local people. Throughout my whole semester, I have been able to connect with a lot of people based on the common ground of sports.
In Jordan, I was invited by teachers at my Arabic school to play soccer in a park it was a great way to meet local people. Another fun soccer game happened in the parking lot outside our program apartment building during a family party that was put on by our landlord.
Every Tuesday, MESP students are a part of service projects. My service project was at a school in a neighboring city to Amman called Zarqa. My time at the school consisted mainly of having one on one time with students who needed help in English. A common conversation I would initiate would be about who their favorite soccer player or team was. This got the students excited because they were talking about something they were passionate about.
Another part of MESP is participating in homestays. The family I stayed with had children who absolutely loved soccer. We would play every night on their drive way. Sometimes they would even invite relatives and neighbors to join in the fun. These nightly soccer games were a great way to bond as my Arabic, and their English, was limited, but we still found a way to connect.
Another part of the semester included travelling to Morocco. This trip was incredibly fun, and a notable experience for me was just chatting to shopkeepers, while drinking very sweet mint tea, about soccer. Also in Morocco on our last evening in Casablanca, I went to the beach and joined local Shabab (Arabic for young men) in playing soccer on the beach. There were multiple games going on, and easily hundreds of people playing on the beach. It was by far the most scenic field I ever played on as the sun set in the evening. This game was particularly fun as my communication with the other people playing consisted of English, Moroccan Arabic, French, and Spanish. It was a great way to practice all of those languages and to meet local Moroccans.
I never knew that when my parents first signed me up for soccer as kid that it was going to be so helpful during my time in the Middle East.