By Rosie Awad, Generations For Peace Communications Team
I knew my parents would not take the news well, which is exactly why I had avoided telling them. But as I had a signed contract in my inbox, two weeks until my start date, and a one-way flight to book, I decided it was time to break the news.
“I’m moving back to Jordan,” I blurted out. Considering I had been expecting to stay in Minnesota after graduation, hearing it out loud for the first time caught me by surprise. My parents seemed to feel the same.
They looked at me from across our kitchen counter in shock. “Jordan,” my mom repeated. “Are you crazy? What would make you go back there?”
“I’m accepting the job with Generations For Peace,” I began. “I know it’s crazy, but I’m sure it’s exactly where I am supposed to be.”
I knew my parents, my friends, or anyone for that matter, would think I was crazy. I had just received an offer from an international consulting firm that I had worked so hard to get. I was so excited to put my business degree to use and stay close to my family and friends.
But for some reason, I couldn’t convince myself that it was meant for me. I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle all day analysing data and crunching numbers. Instead, this nagging feeling kept tugging at me to check out what was available in Amman, Jordan – the place where I had studied abroad and interned a year earlier. I kept telling myself, this is the perfect opportunity to take a risk and return to see what kind of life I could make there. Ultimately, this nagging feeling won me over, and I found myself packing to accept a job in a field I had never pictured myself in and in a country half-way across the world.
Let me rewind a little bit:
Like a lot of university students, I could not wait to study abroad. Ever since my freshman year in college, I would look up and compare programmes, ask my older friends about their experiences, and plan and re-plan my would-be study abroad trip. I was your typical type-A student (the one with a planner that had boxes next to all of my assignments just itching to be checked off), so planning came naturally to me. I knew I wanted a break from the courses my dual majors required me to take and instead wanted to look into something that allowed me to put my Arabic to use. So when I stumbled on a program that allowed me to study Arabic and Diplomacy in Jordan, I knew it was the one for me.
Not only was I given the opportunity to study outside of my major, but I also was given the chance to intern with a Jordanian NGO. While my business background did not align with any of the opportunities I saw, I knew I came to Amman to learn as much as I could. A role with Generations For Peace (GFP) in communications caught my eye because of the opportunity to share stories of the participants and volunteers involved. I immediately applied and was super excited when I selected.
I loved everything about GFP – everyone was passionate about their work and it seemed to me that they had mastered striking a balance between work and play. While I enjoyed my experience at the office, my main motivation for applying for the internship was to join field visits, see exactly what GFP does, and hear the participants’ thoughts of the programmes, face to face. So, as soon as I heard about an opportunity to visit a youth centre in Mafraq where GFP was holding a Sport & Arts For Peace session as part of the GPF Social Cohesion Programme (now called “Maharati” Programme), I jumped on it.
It was an early Saturday morning, and after an hour-long car ride, we arrived at the centre. I wasn’t really sure what I had been expecting, but what I saw was beyond anything I had imagined: something about the energy of the girls chanting in the room drew me in. It was one of those moments where I quite literally took a step back and saw everything in slow motion – girls racing back and forth, cheering one another on in the activities, their laughter filling the room. The strangest part was that I’m sure no one on the outside of the centre, set in the middle of nowhere, expected there to be this much excitement in a worn-out building.
Although the girls were very friendly and wanted to make conversation with me; as an introvert, the scene was a bit overwhelming – and it didn’t help that my Arabic was broken (something that my Palestinian family never forgot to remind me of). I sat back for the first couple of activities, but then was drawn into a discussion with Layan, a Syrian refugee and participant in the programme. Her willingness to share her story with me made me feel more comfortable and welcome at the centre.
I remember on the drive back to Amman, replaying Layan’s story over and over in my head. I knew it would be something that I would never forget, but I had no idea it would end up shaping my future in such a drastic way.
Fast forward one year. As a fresh graduate, I decided I had delayed joining the “real” world for too long and that it was now time to get serious about my future. While reviewing my CV, the name of an old colleague I had worked with while in Jordan caught my eye, and I realised it had been a while since we talked, so I reached out to see how she was doing. To my surprise, she responded by telling me there was a position in the Communications Department that she wanted to discuss with me.
While I had no concrete plans to move back to Jordan, I found myself opening the attachments and looking over the opportunity. I remember excitedly writing back to schedule a time to talk more about the opportunity to return to the organisation that had impacted me so deeply, which might explain why I was wide awake during our 4:00am conversation. An 8-hour difference is hardly ever convenient, but when my former colleague tried to talk me into rescheduling for a later time, I just would not have it. In fact, my exact message read, “There’s no way I’ll be able to sleep now that I am this excited…trust me!”
I mulled over applying for a couple of days. Something about going back was calling my name – it honestly felt like it was meant for me. So I applied.
A week later, I found myself signing a contract.
A couple of days later, I was in my kitchen looking at the surprised faces of my parents.
Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Amman from Minneapolis, ready to begin a new life. Everything had gone by so fast. Any hesitation or fear that built up during the two-legged, 15-hour flight vanished the moment I stepped off the plane in Jordan. It was replaced with a feeling of sheer excitement when I walked into GFP headquarters the following day.
During the first moments at GFP HQ, I was led past the same room I had come to know so well as an intern. As I walked by, I couldn’t help but think about how everything had come back full-circle.
It has been 1 year now since I returned to GFP, my friends, and my life in Amman. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t find myself genuinely amazed by all of the incredible people I work and come in contact with, and deeply moved by the stories I get to share.
I know I made the right decision.
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