From 30 August-9 September, the programme provided 12 Westminster students with a life-changing experience in which they immersed themselves in Middle Eastern culture, joined by students from the University of Babylon in Iraq. 

The students took part in volunteering opportunities and activities with partner organisations in Jordan, as well as cultural tours and Arabic language and culture lessons. It was the second time Westminster students were joined by Iraqi students to encourage further exchange and dialogue of knowledge about the Middle East and the UK.

The trip was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Quintin Hogg Trust and Dr Majid AlSadi, Chairman and CEO of Eastern Holding, a major philanthropist who promotes commitment to humanitarian work, social justice and cross-cultural exchange between the UK and the Middle East.

Among the activities, they visited the Gaza refugee camp, home to around 30,000 of the most disadvantaged Palestinian refugees in Jordan, where they joined local volunteers from the One Love organisation. They interacted with local children through basic English lessons and crafts workshops, and had a discussion with youth volunteers about the community and living conditions.

Students also put together activities and lessons for secondary school children in the Princess Basma Centre in Karak, where they taught English in an interactive and engaging way through games and music. Additionally, they met with young female entrepreneurs in Karak’s  03-Incubator, which currently hosts 10 technology-based start-ups owned by females from the city.

They visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, whose ethos is to practice and advocate plant diversity conservation, and went on a hike in Barqash Forest with Shams Community, which aims to facilitate change by connecting, inspiring and engaging people in a dialogue about their lives.

In addition to this, the group visited Jordan Media City, where they toured the main headquarters at the Arab Radio and Television Network (ART), and the Jordan Media Institute. Cultural visits to the Dead Sea, Karak Castle, Amman’s Citadel, and the city of Salt, where the trip concluded, helped provide a deeper understanding of the country and its history. 

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Maria Campuzano, a Journalism student who took part in the trip, said: “Jordan surprised me beyond expectations and showed me how fascinating Arab culture and its people are. Every word written in my journal and every picture taken is evidence of how remarkable this trip is. It was an incredible opportunity and I am very thankful to have been part of it.”

Rose Bailey, trip supervisor, said: “It has been an honour to be part of such an enriching programme which allowed us all to get a deeper understanding of life in Jordan and the Middle East. It was great to see our students engage so enthusiastically with the programme, from taking part in discussions with local volunteers about identity, through to teaching English to children at Jerash refugee camp. Spending time with the six Iraqi students really enhanced the programme through cross-cultural learning. I have no doubt everybody has come back not only with new friends but also with a whole new perspective on the Middle East.”

Alex Ray, coordinator for the programme said: “Changing Lives were again impressed with the culturally diverse and engaged group of students that were selected for the September 2018 trip to Jordan. The growing alumni network is also very pleasing, with former Westminster Changing Lives participants returning to Jordan to study Arabic and volunteer helping out with the program.”

With students from 165 countries, staff from across the world and a highly international alumni community, the University of Westminster embraces global engagement in all its forms. We have a rich mix of international partnerships in over 20 countries worldwide and place particular emphasis on providing international opportunities for our students. Our research addresses global themes and is sustained by international collaborations. We are an international institution, located in the heart of London.

Find out more about the AlSadi Changing Lives Programme.

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