Scituate teen prepares for year-long stay in Middle East

Scituate teen prepares for year-long stay in Middle East

SCITUATE – In August, 16-year-old Jodiana Lombardi will pack two suitcases and board a plane to Jordan, where she will spend her junior year of high school studying and living with a host family halfway across the world.

Lombardi, a Scituate resident and sophomore at the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center in Providence, is the recipient of a YES Abroad scholarship, part of the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad program, for the 2016-2017 school year.

Beginning in 2009, the program provides “competitive merit-based scholarships for U.S. citizens in secondary school to study for one academic year,” according to its website. The program has sent students to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Oman, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey.

Lombardi told The Valley Breeze & Observer that she’s part of the first cohort of students to study abroad in Jordan, a country with a population of 9.5 million that borders Israel and Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, located close to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

The 16-year-old isn’t worried, she said, adding that she wants to be close to the crisis, helping people any way she can.

“I’m very excited for the opportunities and the people I’ll meet,” she said. “I feel like I should be more nervous than I am ... I don’t know what’s going to happen when I’m there.”

The YES Abroad scholarship website notes that the U.S. and Jordan share “good relations.”

“Basically my job (as a youth ambassador) is to foster relationships between the U.S. and local people in the community,” Lombardi said. “It’s a really cool opportunity.”

When she returns to Rhode Island in June 2017, Lombardi said that she plans to share her experiences and what she learned about Jordanian culture with her peers at the Met, a network of six small public high schools located in Providence and Newport that offers students internship opportunities, individual learning plans, and a college transition program.

Lombardi said that her mother, a special education teacher, was a member of the Met’s first graduating class in 1996. Lombardi is the first second-generation student, she added.

A self-described planner, Lombardi said that she has her future mapped out, hoping to become a U.S. diplomat working in the Middle East or northern Africa.

Being a youth ambassador in Jordan will allow her to meet people in the area and is a “great introduction (to) show me if this is where I want to work and live,” she said.

Interested in the world around her since she was in 2nd-grade, Lombardi hopes to study international relations and Middle Eastern studies in college, and wants to do a stint in the Peace Corps when she’s older.

“If I decide on something and put all my energy toward it, I don’t see why it can’t happen,” Lombardi said.

While in Jordan, Lombardi will live with a host family in Amman, the capital city, and attend a local high school. She has an internship lined up with the United Nations’ World Food Programme and has plans to teach English to Jordanians, she said. She also has to complete a capstone project for the YES Abroad program.

As part of the program, students in Jordan will have opportunities for field trips, sporting events, cultural excursions, social outings, and community service projects, including meeting with the public affairs section of the U.S. Embassy; visiting Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Dead Sea; and taking music/dance lessons and cooking classes, according to the program’s website.

To prepare for her trip, Lombardi has been studying the Arabic language and is meeting with people who are from or who have lived in Jordan, she said.

In addition to Arabic, Lombardi can speak or is studying three other languages: French, Spanish, and Chinese.

As a student at the Met, Lombardi has had numerous internship opportunities and works on self-directed projects focused on topics that interest her, she said.

She’s an intern at the Islamic School of Rhode Island, a nonprofit full-time school located in West Warwick. As a teacher’s assistant, Lombardi works with an Arabic studies teacher in a 1st-grade classroom.

During her sophomore year, Lombardi said she has been on campus two days a week, interning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. She also teaches English after school at the Refugee Dream Center in Providence.

When she takes a break from her academics, Lombardi said she likes to spend time with her friends and family, including three younger siblings. She loves going to the movies.

Jordan will not be Lombardi’s first trip out of the U.S.

Last summer, with 13 others, she traveled to China for 35 days and taught English in a rural village with a lot of poverty. She experienced culture shock, she said, but her dream of becoming a diplomat was reaffirmed.

“It was difficult,” she said. “China was not what I expected. It was a whole new experience.

“That village changed my outlook more than anything.”