Freshman year at the University of Arkansas couldn’t have been better. I met so many amazing people and made too many memories to count. I declared my major International Relations and minor as Middle Eastern Studies. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to get in contact with my second cousin Tara Muse Raney, who resides in Muscat, Oman. She discussed with my mom that I would be more than welcome to come and visit and possibly get an internship while, I’m down there. Look at me now….I’m typing this as I sit in the United terminal gate 40 before I depart for Washington D.C., one of my connecting flights to Muscat. I plan to arrive Tuesday at 3:30pm(their time) and around 8:30am (our time). I will be there until June 4th. Learning the culture and building my resume are just some of the few things I plan to benefit from this trip. I begin studying Arabic this fall, and this is a great opportunity to become more familiar with it seeing as how Muscat’s official language is Arabic. Tara lives in Qurum, Muscat, Oman, which is 2 hours from the mountains and rocky countryside. Plenty of hiking, rock climbing, and camping to be done! Not only is Muscat the capital of Oman, but Qurum, where I’ll be staying is right on the beach between the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. White sand and blue ocean. I’ve been on pinterest the past couple of weeks and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m ready to take plenty of pictures and journal this entire trip. “I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.” It’s crazy to think that about this particular place. A love for a culture that I’ve never been entirely exposed to until now. Aside from my own.
This past semester I took an Islamic Studies class and learned so much about Muslim people and the different countries that are influenced by this religion and common culture. Oman’s state religion is Islam, although their are many foreigner there, they have the freedom to practice whatever they would like. I’ve told many people where I am going for the summer and the one response I get every single time is…. “Be Careful!!!!” Of course, going abroad anywhere, one will say be careful, but there is a different meaning behind this response. Once I explain to the friends or family member that Oman is next to Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East, judgement crosses every single one of their faces. If not judgement, confusion. Confusion to why on earth would I want to spend my entire month of May in the Middle East. I do not blame any of them for their preconceived judgment because had I not taken this Islamic studies class and really analyzed these cultures, I may feel the same way. Or not. I’m pretty open minded. I hope to not only gain knowledge and exposure from this trip, but to bring back the love and comfort to my friends and family about the people of Oman and other middle eastern countries. I want to spread an understanding of a misunderstood religion and culture to those heavily influenced by western modernization.
Although, I could be wrong. Maybe the prejudiced people that make many assumptions about the middle east are true and I will get over there and hate it; consequently changing my major and redirect to something else. Either way, I know I will benefit from this and I can not wait to share it with anyone that is willing to listen.