Meet the People. Taste the Food. Engage the Culture, Faith and Politics of the Middle East.
“Stay for coffee, stay for coffee,” your neighbors say, hoping you'll sit and talk for just a few more minutes. It might make you late for lunch with friends, but how could you refuse a cup of rich, black Arabic coffee offered with such hospitality?
As a student on the Middle East Studies Program (MESP) you will most certainly be served local coffee and sweet, black tea in this manner. Immerse yourself in 6,000 years of history in Jordan. Journey by camel across legendary ground and explore ancient sites like Petra and Jerash. Snorkel in the coral reefs of the Red Sea, share tea with a bedouin sheikh, and fall asleep on a sand dune under the moon in the valley Wadi Rum. Barter in Arabic with vendors in the market and share stories with schoolchildren in the Old City of Jerusalem. Then watch this Holy Land take new shape as you encounter Christ in the regions he walked.
Located in Amman, Jordan, the Middle East Studies Program (MESP) immerses students in the daily life, language, food, culture, religion and politics of one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. Learn firsthand from locals how to work, play, and serve in the Middle East as you become their neighbor—and soon, their family—while learning adventurously at MESP.
The heart of the Middle East Studies Program is the authentic community you’ll forge with these neighbors, families, and peers. Grounded in Christian liberal arts, MESP engages the religious culture and politics of the Middle East. You’ll examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from every perspective, live with a local family during a week-long homestay, and worship with your roommates in the morning. You'll sit at the feet of native experts to learn about topics most precious to the region and then serve that region through a long-term service project.
And you won't be alone on this adventure: you'll have an experienced staff and your fellow MESP students from universities across the U.S. and Canada.
View courses for Best Semester Middle East Studies here.
Forget everything you know about classroom academics: this is learning through immersion.
MESP students learn first-hand from locals who live out the subject matter. You will live, work, eat, play, and travel among these people, becoming a member of their neighborhoods. By the end of the semester, your life will have become entangled with theirs—their cultures, languages, passions and joys. We are committed to this Christ-centered approach, aiming to serve, process, and evaluate your immersion as you grow in your understanding of what it means to be an incarnational follower of Jesus in a land that needs such followers now.
In addition, MESP has worked with students & campuses to receive intercultural practicum credit during the semester.
MESP Director Dr. Doug Magnuson is in charge of the four classes you’ll take here. He has lived in the Middle East for more than 30 years and will give key lectures based on his unique experience and expertise. However, many of your class sessions will be taught by local guest lecturers, and nearly every week, you’ll get to meet and hear from at least one world-class expert who may also be a religious leader, embassy official, member of the Israel-Palestine negotiations team, or author. Plus, MESP students take all their classes together, which means you’ll be able to discuss the morning’s lecture over lunch, the afternoon field trip, or while hanging out in your apartment.
MESP operates on a cohort model, which means that students take all their classes together. In addition, you will live, worship, eat and spend three weeks traveling with your fellow MESP students. Staff members are also with you every step of the way and MESP Director Dr. Doug Magnuson coordinates every class.
Doing all of these things together allows you to get the most out of your academic experience in the Middle East. You’ll have the opportunity to process what you’re learning with staff members, fellow students and even our guest lecturers, who sometimes join us for lunch. In addition, as a Christ-centered program, we seek to reflect daily on how Jesus would have us engage with the people and issues we’re studying. It’s an academic and spiritual journey as a community!
MESP is non-partisan and we believe you should be exposed to all sides of the issues we’re studying: on a regular basis, throughout the semester, MESP hosts guest speakers from across the spectrum to teach on the culture, religion and politics of the region. We want you to understand complex issues from various perspectives and decide for yourself where you stand.
To make sure we engage with students’ particular areas of interest, our speakers also examine specialized areas of the subjects we study, such as psychology, history, politics, international relations, intercultural studies, anthropology, journalism, communications, gender studies, religion, and reconciliation or peace and conflict studies. Among other amazing speakers, in recent semesters we have hosted author and historian Gershom Gorenberg; journalist and political commentator Mustafa Akyol; peace activist Robi Damelin; head of the Ramallah Friends Meeting Jean Zaru; political officers who deal directly with the Israel-Palestine conflict; members of parliament and local professors of Gender Studies, Islam, and Eastern Christianity.
When Dr. Doug lectures, you’ll want to listen up! His specialty is Intercultural Development -- teaching students to grow in how they relate to and live effectively among people from different cultures. His passion is to see students truly understand what it means to engage in another culture, not just live there as tourists. As part of the People and Cultures course, you will take the Intercultural Development Inventory and be personally mentored by Dr. Doug and Program Administrator Patti Magnuson on how to relate to local people, communicate effectively and grow in your understanding of culture as a whole. You will also be challenged to apply these principles of understanding and openness to your other courses.
In addition to the interactions you’ll naturally have while living immersed in this culture, MESP provides opportunities for you to make progress in these areas by facilitating service projects, homestays, and multiple cultural exchanges in which we pair you up with local young adults who speak English and are interested in sharing their culture with you.
On MESP you won’t be a tourist; you’ll be a pilgrim. Students immerse themselves in Arab culture until they're on a first-name basis with members of the community. Of course, you’ll get to see all the tourist sites too, with plenty of free time to explore—but you’ll likely spend most of that free time discussing in coffee shops, playing soccer with the neighborhood children, or bargaining with the shopkeepers as you get to know them.
The weather is clear and dry, and from your neighborhood, you'll have easy access to all of the restaurants, gatherings, and attractions that Amman has to offer. If you get sick while you’re here, you'll have quick access to excellent medical care. And if you or your parents are concerned about the safety of the region, you can rest assured that MESP and its network of local and international security advisors have plans and policies in place to keep our students safe and comfortable.
The travel component is one of the most exciting parts of MESP. Students travel the region's legendary and holy sites, while also spending time receiving hospitality in the smaller neighborhoods and homes of diverse cities and countries. The best part: all of your expenses for the travel component (aside from souvenirs purchased on the trip) are covered by your MESP tuition!
Traveling as a student is much different than traveling as a tourist. Before landing in each country, you'll receive experienced instruction and background information so you can enter the context with a grasp on local issues and politely engage in small talk. Once you’re on the ground, local tour guides and lecturers will get you acquainted with the country, its people and customs. We also make sure there’s enough free time in each locale for you to put your language skills to use as you chat with shopkeepers and waiters and explore the squares, markets and museums.
Though our exact schedule may change, we expect to travel to Morocco, Turkey and Israel/Palestine (conditions permitting). In Istanbul, Turkey, we’ll take all who are willing on a trip to a Turkish bath, still frequented by local men and women. We’ll have tours of the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace - and the ferry rides on the Bosphorous are not to be missed. In Morocco, we'll visit one of the world’s oldest universities and the exquisite Hassan II mosque. You’ll wander the plaza of Jemaa El Fna in Marrakech by night and the labyrinth of Old Fes by day, where you can witness leather being made in the world’s oldest tannery. In Israel-Palestine, you’ll study the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and hear from renowned local speakers. You’ll do homestays with both Palestinian and Jewish families and have the opportunity to visit sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, and Church of the Nativity
Read more about the program