Happy June still everyone! I’m currently blogging from Lawrence, Kansas.
At this moment, I’ve spent approximately two weeks in Kansas learning Arabic, which is the very middle of the middle of the United States (in both longitude and latitude).
Here’s a look at my typical weekday schedule:
I wake up at 0600, leave my dorm room at 0630, walk off the University of Kansas campus to pick up a coffee, then go find a nice hill in the sun to cram before I have to go to class. (Hills in Kansas?!) My class time occurs from 0800 until 1240. Then I have about an hour break in which, usually, the three other people in my class plus myself grab lunch. Following that, we head to the library to meet our tutor for approximately two to three hours. After this we part ways, I typically eat dinner, then go back to my room to finish up homework and do some extra studying before I go to sleep.
Repeat x 4 Monday-Thursday.
There are fourteen people total participating in Project GO at KU this summer from different Navy ROTC, Army ROTC, and Air Force ROTC units all over the country. The languages we’re learning are as follows: Arabic, Russian, Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin. The other students and I also span across different collegiate levels from upcoming sophomores to rising seniors, with some working towards Geography degrees and other Engineers. To say the least, we’re a diverse bunch.
Aside from learning the Arabic language, I’ve also been exploring the culture of Arabic speaking countries, which are heavily rooted in beliefs of Islam. My professor is from Egypt and my tutor is from Saudi Arabia, and aside from talking about cultural differences with them in the first two weeks I’ve been here, our class has visited the Islamic Center of Lawrence twice and got henna at an orientation designed to expose us and get us talking about the different cultures we’re learning about.
Going from zero experience with the language of Arabic to immersing myself in the celebration of Iftar (Ramadan dinner) and Eid (a celebration marking the end of Ramadan) in an Islamic center was a bit of a culture shock. Aside from some common misconceptions, I learned that Islam is a lot like other major peaceful religions in the world who encourage kind teachings. The essential gist I received from being graciously welcomed into a place I’d never been, to take part in a cultural celebration I’d recently learned about, was that Islam encourages all people practicing, and not, to be kind to others and to be loving and charitable.
In my studies in Lawrence these past two weeks I’ve learned many things, not only about the inclusive culture of Muslim people, but about a language that has been spoken for thousands of years too. Overall, taking part in Project GO has been unlike anything I have experienced in the past and I am truly honored to be able to celebrate, observe culture, and study Arabic thus far.
In other news, my first exam is this week. Will report back soon!
P.S. I have basil in my room too!