Doubtless, you’re busy preparing for your journey abroad. To help you better prepare for your departure, as well as give you a clear picture of what you can expect upon arrival, we’ve put together these brief notes. Some of the points are repeats from earlier correspondences, included for emphasis and as a reminder, but the vast majority of the information is new. Please read and re-read it carefully, and print out a paper copy to keep with you for reference. Should you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, as always, feel free to send an email our way.
Reminders Before You Depart
When to Arrive
All students are strongly advised to arrive in Amman no more than a couple of days prior to the first day of orientation. Booking your airline tickets as early as possible is the best way to ensure that you’re able to reserve flights on the desired dates.
We’ve mentioned previously that Qasid is wi-fi (“g”) capable, and that we provide each student with complimentary access to our network. If you have a laptop or tablet that is wi-fi ready, you’re more than welcome to bring it with you to use for communicating with family and friends via email, VOIP, and|or chat. Oh yes … and for studying.
Having a cell phone while here is highly recommended. It will help with everything from keeping in touch with the Qasid staff and other students, to better navigating and finding places in Amman and beyond that you haven’t yet visited. As public payphones have more or less been discontinued in Amman, and many landlords don’t provide a landline for tenants, students that come in not seeing a need for a cell phone quickly realize the near-necessary nature of getting one, not to mention the numerous advantages that it provides. For those who elect to use a cell phone, there are two options to choose from:
1. Bring your own cell phone. If it is a tri-band|GSM phone and unlocked, all you need is a local SIM card for about 7 JD (1 JD = 1.42 US $; 1 JD = 0.75 UK Sterling), and you’re set to go. If the phone is locked (most phones purchased in the US come locked by default), the chances are very good that we can get it unlocked for you through one of the many phone servicers here in Amman. They charge anywhere from 5 JD to 15 JD for this one-time service.
2. Buy a phone once you’re here. Phones range from 20 JD to 200 JD, depending on features. It is not uncommon for a student to buy a local phone and then sell it to another, incoming Qasid student before they depart. You’ll also need a SIM card, as described above.
For both of these scenarios, you’ll need to purchase pre-paid minute cards. These most commonly come in denominations of 5 JD and 12 JD (plus 50% in tax and fees typically), allowing you to both receive and make calls.
One thing that all visitors to Jordan have found to be particularly advantageous is that you are not charged anything for incoming calls; you are charged only for outgoing calls. The implications of this for keeping in touch with those back home are obvious: You can call family or friends for a quick minute, and then have them call you back right away. Inexpensive calling cards from North America and Europe abound; one website that sells a variety of cards is www.nobelcom.com.
Please review the Academic Program Information sheet on Qasid’s website to accurately budget for your stay. It goes without saying that it is better to bring more than less. ATM machines are located throughout the city, and can be used to withdraw cash from your US, UK, or Canadian bank account. All three forms of money withdrawal involve a small commission of as little as ½ % to as much as 2%, individually assessed by the bank or money changer. At Qasid, we accept credit card (Visa and Mastercard) and cash (US dollars and Jordanian dinars). We do not accept checks.
Any US, Canadian, or UK passport holder can get a visa upon arrival, they are given as a matter of course at the airport, and the process usually takes just a few minutes. The cost is currently 40 JD ($56 US). If you hold a passport for other than one of these nationalities, or if you’re more comfortable having yours in hand regardless, please inquire about visa procedures with your local embassy.
If you plan on going to Saudi Arabia (for example, as a Muslim student performing ‘Umra), you should secure the respective entry visas from your home country before coming to Jordan.
For those with children, it is best to bring with you any “specialty items”. Although Jordan is generally well-stocked on general creature-comforts, some of the more uncommon items are marked up quite a bit. Nurseries and early-education schools such as Montessori are available in Amman.
Jordan’s health services are considered to be among the best in the Middle East; citizens from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lybia, and Egypt regularly come to Jordan for health care. Though virtually all of the ubiquitous prescription drugs are available in Amman, bring any items with you that are absolutely crucial to your well being. We will discuss health, hospitals, and physician contact information extensively during orientation.
You can expect to find a relatively dry heat throughout the summer, and temperate falls and spring seasons. Come ready for hot weather in the summer quarters, while still honoring the dress code advice we have provided in the Student Policy Agreement.
Winters here can get VERY, VERY COLD, including snowfalls in some years that shut down the city. So bring a sturdy jacket for these months. Don’t be deceived that the Middle East is all about warm deserts and date palms. The most commonly under-anticipated phenomenon here is that the majority of buildings, including your residences, are made of concrete, stone, and cinderblock construction, meaning they are highly effective at transferring frigid, external temperatures to the interior spaces. It is not unusual for students to claim they feel colder inside than out.
Therefore, Polartec|fleece undergarments, sweaters, and a warm jacket and knit cap will come in very handy. Otherwise, most anything that you’ll likely need can be purchased here, but you might want to bring items of a personal nature, such as flannel bed sheets.
At the Airport in Amman
The recently completed, Queen Alia Airport is now open just outside Amman. With that transition incoming students should find the procedures for processing passenger arrivals rather straightforward. However, if for any reason, you feel some part of the arrivals routine is being delayed, please call Omar or Bilal at the numbers given below, to ensure that the driver who is to meet you does not leave prematurely thinking that you’ve missed your flight.
Once you deboard the airplane, you’ll enter the terminal and should see a money exchange near the immigration stands. There you can exchange a small amount of your cash to Jordanian dinars. We recommend that you change anywhere from $40 to $100 US, so that you’ll have pocket money for your first two or three days. You may inquire with the money changer as to the visa price to ensure you are getting an adequate minimum of dinars. Normally the visa costs 40 dinars ($56 US). You’ll then take your dinars to the immigration stand, and present them with your passport and dinars for the visa.
Keep the information recommended below handy on an index card while in the airport. Answer immigration officials’ questions with a smile. It’s preferable that you speak in English. If too many questions are asked, or if they ask you for a reference, take out the card and give to them.
Qasid Arabic Institute
3rd Floor, Sony Building 22
Queen Rania Street
Mr. Omar Matadar 077 670 3222
Again, please write the above on an index card, keep on your person, and be ready to give to an immigration official. But ONLY IF ASKED.
After you clear immigration, you may encounter one more official who will quickly review your passport, and might ask you about where you’re headed. Give the same answers you gave to the earlier immigration agents, and you’ll be on your way downstairs to collect you luggage.
Once you’ve picked up your bags from baggage claim, you’ll then go to towards the customs checkpoint to have your luggage sent through a scanner. There, a friendly official might ask what you have in your bags, so just tell them clothes, etcetera. On rare occasion, for those who are bringing laptops or tablet computers, the official might ask about its price because of customs duties. Tell them that it’s for personal use, and you’ll be on your way. You may need to fill out a form that requires you to bring your device with you when you leave the country (as proof that you haven’t sold it and profited from the sale). Again, this happened once in many, many years.
If you don’t see all of your bags within 30 minutes, DON’T PANIC. Simply go to your airline representative or an airport staff member, report your luggage missing and get a receipt for that notification. Qasid will assist in following up from there. Then call our Director, Omar Matadar, 077 670 3222 (English and Arabic speaker), or his aide, Bilal Abu Amsha 077 760 8442 (Arabic speaker) immediately, and they will advise you on next steps. If your phone does not have international roaming capabilities, you may go to the Information Desk for assistance.
Baggage may come slowly, but is seldom very late, and if any pieces are delayed they will eventually be found. Omar will be waiting to speak with you via phone upon your arrival and Bilal is in charge of student transportation. They are both aware of your arrival time, and accessible to help you get to your new home safely and comfortably.
After proceeding through the customs exit point into the main terminal, you should see one of our drivers near the rental car booths wearing a Qasid badge and holding a placard with the institute logo and|or your name on it. He should also have a student roster which you should sign to ensure that we have not missed anyone. Please note that depending on the seasonal, academic term we expect anywhere from 150 to 350 students to arrive in the few days prior to the orientation. This means you may have an initial wait of up to an hour and a half while Qasid’s drivers are en route between the airport and the city, or while other students are landing, with whom you will carpool together for the ride into Amman.
Once all is then ready for the final leg of your journey, your home away from home is about 45 to 60 minutes from the airport, depending on traffic and the number of students being shuttled. The driver will have a letter from a member of Qasid’s staff welcoming you to the institute and giving a brief overview about what to expect over the next few days. Omar will call and touch base, and help coordinate calling your loved ones and letting them know that you’ve arrived safely. Time permitting, this all happens during your ride from the airport to your apartment. You’ll then be taken to your new residence; for which details will be included in your arrival letter.
Arriving at Your New Home
Again, the letter that is given to you by the driver will lay out what to expect in your first 24 hours after arrival. Among the things included are:
• Notes about pre orientation and the orientation itself, housing, how to find Qasid, appointment times to meet staff, who to contact, and the like.
• Informational materials on Amman specifically and Jordan in general.
The orientation and placement exams will be held as indicated in previous correspondence. Included in the orientation package are:
• Sight-seeing agenda
• General orientation schedule
• Slide presentation overview about Qasid
• Tips for getting around Amman
• Health guidelines and information
Our Final Requests
Please re-read and follow the above information (especially preparing the immigration index card). We highly recommend that you make yourself a checklist and be sure to get everything done that needs doing, as time will pass by quickly between now and your departure. As mentioned in the introduction, we again also suggest that you print out this document and keep it with you for reference.
The above was intended to give as much detailed information as possible so that, from the days and moments before you leave until you arrive — comfortable and snug in your new home — you and those you’ve left back home would have a clear idea about what to expect. If you have any further questions, please feel free to email us.
We look forward to meeting and serving each and every one of you this term, and beyond.
Warmest wishes, was-salam
The Qasid Staff