12 Culture and Advice

Cultural Discussion and Advice From A Fellow Student

Important Things to Know When Traveling Abroad: Written by Grace Hall and Sara Bakari

Transportation (Jordan vs Saudi Arabia)

When you arrive at your destination, there are many different ways to get around. In most Arab countries you can order a taxi, a fancy limousine at the airport, or download an app for carpool services such as Uber or Kareem. Kareem is the same thing as Uber, but Arab!

Sara: In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, taxis are often green or white with the word Taxi written on them (Taxi أجرة). When ordering a taxi you can just stand on the street raising your thumb and a taxi will stop by to pick you up! Most of the time the taxi drivers are kind people who just want to help, but they are not authorized by the Saudi government. So I always suggest going the safest route and using an app like uber or Kareem.

Grace: I had a slightly different experience than Sara when I was living in Jordan. Taxis in Jordan are a pale yellow color with a green logo. If you want to catch a taxi,  tap your index finger in the air like you’re pressing an invisible button. This tells the taxi drivers that you want to be picked up. Taxis in Jordan are safe, as they are authorized by the government, but Taxi drivers will try to charge you higher prices for being an American. Therefore, I preferred to take Kareems around town because the price is set before you get in the car. That being said, taxis are a great option if you want to practice your language skills and arguing for a lower price. If you wish to take taxis, I will give you the best tips and tricks for making sure you don’t get scammed and staying safe.

  1. Make sure you can always see the meter in your field of vision. Some drivers will try to hide it and start it early so that it charges you more money or they won’t start it at all so they can make up a price. Therefore, the first thing you should always do when entering a taxi is identifying where the meter is. If you cannot find the meter, say where is the meter or “وين الاداد”. If you are already driving and they haven’t started the meter, ask them to start it by saying ابدأ العداد.
  2. If you’re short on money, ask the driver how much it will cost to get from point A to point B before you get in the car. This way you can negotiate the price if you need to.
  3. Don’t stay in the car if you feel uncomfortable, you can always ask them to stop and pull over at any point.
  4. Make sure to always tell someone where you are going and when you plan on coming back
  5. Keep both the US embassy’s number, a friend’s number, a program coordinator’s number, or a host parent’s number on speed dial.
  6. Sometimes it will be cheaper to take a taxi as they charge per kilometer, while uber’s and Kareem’s prices change depending on traffic and time of day.







Important phrases regarding allergies

I’m allergic to (peanuts, wheat, dairy):

عندي حساسية من المكسرات، الألبان، القمح

I don’t eat (peanuts, wheat, dairy):

ما آكُل مكسرات ، ما اشرب حليب ، ما أكل قمح أو دقيق

I’m vegetarian, do have a vegetarian menu:

أنا نباتي/نباتية ، عندكم أكل نباتي؟ أو عندكم منيو نباتي؟

Grace: Most restaurants I came across in both Jordan and Palestine were vegetarian-friendly. However, you might have a hard time finding appropriate food if you have Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.

Sara: Also, a side note about restaurants: In Arabic culture, it is not required to give a tip to the waiter (جرسون ، نادل ). They might refuse to take it or they might be happy to take it

How to ask for directions

How can I go to (this place):

كيف أقدر أروح لهذا المكان؟

How can I reach (this place):

كيف أقدر أوصل لهذا المكان؟

Going to the Souq or Markets

At souqs, you can find lots of amazing items to buy as a souvenir or try while you’re in the country. Examples of items you can buy at Souqs are homemade spices, homemade tea, olive oil, farm-grown veggies and fruits, hand made soaps, hand made paintings and jewelry, clothing, dishware, pottery, bags, traditional clothing, decorations for your house or car, or fun tourist items like vials of colored sand or a stuffed camel with your name on it. Souqs can be both indoor and outdoor depending on the country and time of year. Not only are souqs fun to explore, but it’s a great time to practice your language skills and barter for a price. Bartering is the art of getting an item for a lower price than marked. Most vendors in the Middle East expect you to barter and thus will raise the price if you are an American, don’t speak Arabic, or don’t try hard enough.

It’s also important to note that many stores and souks are closed earlier in the day on Fridays, as it is an Islamic holy day. Everything will be slow or closed earlier in the day and as the day goes on they will start to open up. However, in some countries such as the UAE, some markets are closed all day.

الأسواق والمحلات تكون مغلقة في أوقات الصلاة

يوم الجمعة تفتح بعد الظهر أو بعد صلاة الجُمعة

Important phrases to use at souqs

How much is this item?

بكم هاذي القطعة؟

قديش هي؟ (Jordanian dialect)

Phrases to use while bargaining:

  1. You might start by saying,
    • That is too much مرة كثير!
    • This is too expensive مرة غالي!
    • Is this the final price? هذا آخر سعر؟
  2. Next, suggest a suitable price. For example, if the piece was 30 Ryal. You can say, “How about 20 or 15?” Usually, start by halving the price.
  3. If the vendor says no to your proposed price, pretend that you are leaving because it is too expensive. They might call you to come back and take it at the price you want. (Sara: my mom always do it LOL)

What should you wear abroad?


في السعودية: من الذوق العالمأن تلبس النساء العباية، لا حاجة من تغطية الرأيس في الأماكن العامة لكن مهم من تغطية الرأس(مسفع، طرحة) عند

.الذهال للمساجد.

في البلدان العربية الأخرى: لا يشترط عباية، لكن لبس ساتر

Translation: In Saudi Arabia, women wear an abaya. There is no need to cover the head in public places, but it is important to cover the head (scourge, scarf) when going to the mosques. In other Arab countries: an abaya is not required, but a covering is normal.


When traveling in the Middle East, it’s important to be respectful to the cultures you visit. Therefore, try to bring more modest clothes that cover the shoulders, chest, and knees, unless you are at public beaches or a swimming pool. It is best to have a scarf on you at all times as well, just in case you visit a mosque and need to cover your head. Most mosques will also provide you will an abaya when you visit, so there is no need to bring one. While it’s important to dress modestly for cultural respect as well as your own comfort, it does not mean you have to wear a hijab or a burqa while visiting an Islamic country (unless you are in a country that requires it). I recommend bringing clothes that are breathable and you won’t overheat in, as well as UV-protecting clothing. I would also bring a hat to cover your face and head from the sun, as it is very hot in the summer. While Arabs don’t wear hats, it’s better to stand out a little and protect your skin, than to burn in the sun.

Famous Landmarks


There are so many famous landmarks in Saudi Arabia, I found a website that collected most of them: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g293991-Activities-c47-Saudi_Arabia.html .


Grace: I have been to Jordan, Palestine, and Israel, and they all have amazing places to visit. This includes visiting Petra, floating in the dead sea, going to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Nablus. Below I will attach a few websites that do a much better job of describing the things to do in these three locations than I could.

Jordan: https://www.bigworldsmallpockets.com/things-to-do-in-jordan/

Palestine: https://www.globeguide.ca/things-to-do-in-palestine/

Israel: https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/things-to-see-and-do-israel/

What type of food/drinks/desserts do you recommend people try?



  1. مطعم البيك.
  2. مندي https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXdbYVDXGRo
  3. سيريه. In Jeddah – old neighborhoods
  4. عصير اصفهاني https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMxrpYImZio
  5. شاهي مغربي https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rnyQzJ1jpA&list=PLQwqzhmhB4HioHmbza3F21_akOxAyRoqD&index=17
  6. سليق https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpco3fXQYJM 



Student Advice: How to apply to a study abroad

Steps to apply to a study abraod

  1. Get as much information as you can about what program or country you might be interested in. The programs that are offered, their application deadline, how much they cost, and their housing situation are listed on the Global Learning Opportunities website (https://www.boisestate.edu/globaleducation-glo/prospective-students/programs/) or the program finder (https://www.via-trm.com/)
  2.  Contact your academic adviser and talk about whether you can fit a study abroad into your schedule or not
  3. Once you have figured out whether or not a study abroad will fit in your schedule, contact a study abroad advisor to discuss programs, costs, and eligibility. Make sure the program is the best fit for you and what you want to study! Find study abroad advisors here: (https://www.boisestate.edu/globaleducation-glo/connect-with-us/)
  4. Attend a Study Abroad 101 Session
    • Contact the GLO office at 208.426.2630 or email them at studyabroad@boisestate.edu to sign up for a session to get information about studying abroad and insight from a recently returned student. At the end of the session, you will be given a mandatory pre-advising survey in order for them to better advise you through the rest of the process.
  5. Choose a program and apply on VIA TRM (https://www.via-trm.com/)
    • Most study abroad applications will require basic personal information, three short essays, a copy of your transcript, 1-2 letters of recommendation, and an application fee of varying amounts.
      • Applying for most programs is a multi-step process.  Please follow the instructions for the program type you have selected below. Be sure to read everything carefully so that you fully understand the requirements and expectations.

Direct Exchange and ISEP

  1. Go to ViaTRM and create an account.
  2. After you create an account, meet with a GLO staff member for an advising session (if you haven’t already done so).
  3. After meeting with a staff member go to your ViaTRM account, log in and apply to the program you are interested in.
  4. You will need to submit hard copies of official transcripts, a letter of recommendation (1), and your application fee.
  5. You will then need to be interviewed by GLO staff before you are officially accepted to the exchange.
  6. Once you have been approved, you will need to fill out another application on the ISEP website and be approved by their staff.
  7. Once you are approved, you will receive the next steps from your ISEP point of contact.

USAC and Partner Programs

  1. Go to ViaTRM and create an account.
  2. After you create an account, meet with a GLO staff member (if you haven’t already done so).
  3. After meeting with a staff member go to your ViaTRM account, log in and apply to the program you are interested in.
  4. You then need to apply to USAC or to the program you have selected.  This is usually located on their website. ViaTRM will link you to the external program website to complete your application.
    • Note: If you are applying for a non-USAC program, please be sure to let the GLO staff know once you submit an application on Via and the program website.

Global Classroom (Faculty-Led) Programs

  1. Go to ViaTRM  and create an account
  2. After you create an account, meet with the faculty member leading the program (if you haven’t already done so).
  3. Register for the faculty member’s course.
  4. After meeting with a staff member, go to your ViaTRM account, log in and apply to the program you are interested in.
  5. You will be accepted online with ViaTRM and will have additional forms to complete.


  1. Go to ViaTRM and create an account.
  2. After you create an account, meet with a GLO staff member for an advising session(if you haven’t already done so).
  3. After meeting with a staff member go to your ViaTRM account, log in and apply to NSE. You must list your top three universities in order of preference.
  4. Pay application fee to GLO (cash, check or money order)

Next Steps

  1. Once your application is approved, you will need to complete Boise State’s required paperwork, so that you can maintain your full-time student status and receive your aid disbursement. This is required for ALL students studying abroad, regardless of the program.
    • The following forms are required:
      1. Course Approval Form
      2. Terms and Agreements Form
      3. Confidential Health History Form

    2. Apply to Scholarships

    • The Boise State Global Learning Office and every study abroad continuum offers scholarships, however, they will require a separate application and will have a separate deadline than the study abroad application.

3. Get a Passport and a Visa

      •  All students will need a passport to study abroad; apply as soon as possible.  GLO is a US Passport Acceptance Facility and you can apply in our office.
        • Most students studying abroad will need a student visa. You will need to apply for your visa through the embassy or consulate nearest to your home state. To obtain visa forms and contact the host country’s embassy in the US.

4. Get super excited for one of the most amazing adventures of your life!!

Preparing To Study Abroad

Get to know the place you’re going to live

I would say the first step when preparing to travel to another country is getting to know the place you’re going to live better:

  1. Research the countries history
  2. Research the religions and how to be respectful
  3. Research tourism sites and the types of food (especially if you have dietary restrictions)


Next start addressing the logistics of your travel.

  • Contact your program coordinator if you have any dietary restrictions or disabilities
  • Refresh your language skills or try to learn basic travel phrases
    • I found it helpful to buy a pocket language book guide from Barnes and Nobles
  • Research your accommodations and plan if you need to bring anything like a pillow, sheets, or silverware
  • Sart looking into plane tickets
    • I would recommend trying websites that cater to students as they often have cheaper flights, that being said, don’t rely on one website. ALWAYS compare prices!
      • Student Universe
      • Skyscanner
      • STA Travel
      • American Airlines
      • Lufthansa’s student program

Safety first

I would also apply to government safety programs and plan out emergency contacts as traveling can get crazy or dangerous sometimes. I was in Israel when the Pandemic got bad, so trust me, it’s important to sign up for these programs)

  1. Make an account on STEP
    • The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
      • You will receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country will help you to make informed decisions about your travel plans.
      • Signing up will give the U.S. Embassy your contact information in case of an emergency.

2. Research the closest American embassy to your program location and put their number on speed dial

    • if anything happens while you’re abroad, contact the American embassy

3. Unlock your phone at your local cellphone provider or buy a burner phone

    • while abroad you need to be able to use your phone off of wifi, so that you can contact your parents, program coordinators, local embassy, or host family in cases of emergencies. The best way to do this is to either pay for an international phone plan OR to buy a local sim card. Local sim cards can be placed into your current phone, but it will need to be unlocked. When your phone is “locked” this means you can not add or take out a sim card. If you are unable to get your phone unlocked or do not want to, you can also buy a burner phone like a Nokia to put the sim card into.

4. get a credit card

    • nobody wants to lose money and it’s not smart to travel with all of your cards and cash on you. When I travel abroad I only bring a credit card, my passport, and a little bit of American cash. I do NOT bring my debit card. Debit cards can be easily stolen and you are losing your money, however, if your credit card gets stolen, that is not your money. Additionally, if your credit card gets stolen, the company can easily solve the problem instead of trying to get your money back. Thus I suggest bringing a credit card and pulling our local money at an ATM.

5. Copy your passport

    • You do NOT want to lose your passport while abroad, but you also want to make sure you have identification on you if you get pulled over or have an emergency. Thus, scan the first page of your passport and keep the copy on you at all times, and leave your real passport in a safe space. I recommend leaving your passport with your program coordinator or hiding it in a safe space where you are staying. I often bring a lock with me to lock my suitcase with my passport and push it under my bed.


Appropriate dress code varies widely across the Middle East and can depend on the specific locations you are going to. But the one important thing to keep in mind is that you generally want to be modest and the weather is hot in the summer.

In some places, it’s okay to wear shorts or a tank top, like on the beach in Dubai or Egypt, but for the most part, you should cover everything above your knee, your soldiers, and your chest. It is better to be more conservative than to be less conservative. Having traveled to Jordan I would wear shorter pants or a T-shirt on some days and I would still feel as if people were staring at me, so wearing modest clothes made me feel more comfortable in crowded cities. It’s also good to wear modest clothes because you might tour a mosque and you need to cover up to be respectful. Below I am going to provide a general packing list for a trip to the Middle East in the summer based on what I packed.

  • Tennis shoes
  • Sandals
  • Bathing suit
  • Bathing suit cover
  • 1 pair of shorts (or the beach or swimming)
  • Long pants (stay away from form-fitting stuff like leggings and anything with rips, but Skinny jeans can OK).
  • Flowy pants
  • Lots of T-shirts
  • Layering shirts like cotton button-ups
  • Thin PJs (cotton since it can be hot at night)
  • A sweatshirt (some nights can also be cold if you go camping or stay at a bedouin camp)
  • Hiking outfit
  • Toiletries
  • Tampons (It’s taboo to buy tampons as a nonmarried woman in some countries, so if you use them, I highly recommend bringing them in bulk).
  • Medication (bring meds for pain and stomach nausea from differences in food or water)
  • Sunglasses!!
  • Sunscreen!!
  • Toiletries (bring products you cannot buy outside of America. Do keep in mind that you can buy American shampoos and toothpaste in the Middle East)
  • Undergarments (obliviously)
  • Hat (you will get sunburnt, so cover up)
  • Scarf (for women, you need to cover your head when you go in a mosque, it’s also just good to have on you at all times to cover your shoulders)
  • Small bag (it’s good to have a small bag that you can bring with you when you’re exploring, make sure it’s not easy to pit pocket though).
  • Luggage locks (I like to lock my luggage as an extra safety precaution)
  • One nice conservative outfit (you might get invited to a wedding, party, holiday celebration, or formal event)
  • Gift for your host family (bring something that represents or shows off your home state, or maybe American candy or unique foods)
  • School supplies (backpack, notebooks, or other things you don’t want to buy on the program).
  • Universal adapter for charging electronics (different countries have different types of plug-ins, so you will need to buy a universal adapter on Amazon or at a tech store).
  • Sheets and or a pillow (some study abroad accommodations won’t provide sheets, so I bought a cheap set of sheets from Target for $10 and I got a compact pillow, you could also just buy sheets in the host country).
  • I recommend packing lighter since you’ll probably want to buy a lot of stuff and bring it back. You can always just wash your clothes more frequently or buy a few items abroad
  • Reusable water bottle (water is not free at restaurants like it is in the US, so bring a water bottle with you to use when you’re exploring. It is very easy to get dehydrated).
  • MASK (who knows how long COVID-19 will last, so bring a mask!)
  • Headphones (for when you’re on the plane)
  • Something that reminds you of home (I brought pictures of my friends and family to hang up in my room, since it didn’t take up a lot of space in my bag)



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Study Materials for Arabic Students by an Arabic Student Copyright © by Grace Hall via the Boise State Pathways Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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