Second Semester & Cultural Exploration

Happy July everyone! I’m currently blogging from Lawrence, Kansas (yes, again).

I am half way through my second semester of an intensive language course and I’m still alive, and possibly thriving? I took my second midterm of the summer and have only two weeks left until I’ve completed an equivalent of one year of Arabic studies in two months.

In the first two weeks of second semester (in addition to class, tutoring, quizzes, exams, midterms, homework, and studying) I’ve attended a cultural presentation hosted by a Kuwaiti Professor, a field trip to a middle eastern café, and an Arab cooking class followed by an Africa Eats Dinner. I also have a new tutor from Saudi Arabia.

 

Insight to how these things contribute to my journey learning Arabic:

Culture plays a huge role in influencing many different aspects of the Arab world. In my experience with the Arabic language thus far, my exposure to different regions of Arab culture has been extremely beneficial in helping me to understand how words sprout new meanings and have certain connotations in different contexts. This understanding is extremely important in developing not only fluency, but native-like communication. Furthering my comprehension of Arabic words beyond classroom utilization is especially useful when developing my own vista of words that don’t translate into English.

On my road to becoming a global citizen, and in preparation to be able to take part in foreign relations in the future as an officer, I’ve realized the extreme importance that breaking language barriers plays. The more native speakers I get to interact with and the more I learn about courtesies and take part in different customs of diverse Arab culture, I feel more personally connected with what I’m learning. Beyond standard educational benefits, I’m beginning to grasp how learning Arabic truly offers numerous intangible benefits that extend beyond reading and writing and tap into why communication is a vital skill in a globally interactive world.

Cooking Class Highlight:

One of my absolute favorite dishes I learned to cook is an Egyptian dish that doesn’t translate into English but is pronounced sort of like “mesa’a’ah”. This is an eggplant dish with potatoes, spicy peppers (we used jalapenos), and homemade tomato sauce with garlic, onions, and spices. All of the ingredients are cooked separately, then are added together in a dish and baked. This food is absolutely amazing and fairly simple to put together.

The actual name: المسقعة

 

In addition to learning Arabic, and dealing with the ever-present Kansas summer heat, I’ve been running in the early mornings or late evenings depending on the day and have expanded my caffeine repertoire on quests seeking new study spaces.

Will report back soon!

First Semester & Finals

Happy July everyone! I’m currently blogging from Lawrence, Kansas.

My first semester of Arabic is officially over! One month in an intensive language course is no joke. I’m practically dreaming in Arabic at this point (kidding, but I wish).

This past month has flown by, from mosque visits during Ramadan, to celebrating Eid al-Fitr, having conversation tables with higher level Arabic students, talking with native speakers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, attending cultural presentations, watching Saudi Arabian films, performing skits in class, and numerous dinners. I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time and despite having to walk to class in 100+ degree weather with excessive heat and ozone warnings, I would do it again ten times over because this experience has been extremely eye opening and truly one of a kind.

Sometimes the grammar rules are overwhelming, the vocabulary seems like it won’t ever be able to stick in my brain, and I’m mentally exhausted, but despite hours of class, tutoring, homework, and studying, looking back to a month ago, I’ve accomplished things I wouldn’t have even thought of as possible. Some particularly proud moments I’ve had include writing a page in Arabic on my final exam, talking for ten minutes on the oral portion of my final, and writing a 500+ word final essay in Arabic.

Places I frequently study consist of my dorm room, the library, study rooms in my building, and a little coffee shop in walking distance just off campus called McLain’s Market that conveniently opens just in time for me to grab coffee before class.

A critical aspect in my learning experience thus far has been the close-knit community of students in my class with our professor and our tutor. Spending hours every day with the same people definitely presents its challenges, but despite the rigorous and exhausting academic dynamic, the atmosphere really is more like a team. Learning is fun because we’re doing it together, and all parties involved truly seem to want to help us in any way they can. Project GO truly went above and beyond to connect motivated, inquisitive, and likeminded individuals with intelligent and passionate educators to help us succeed in our foreign language endeavors.

I know July will be filled with challenges, many new opportunities, and daily learning experiences. I am extremely excited to see what the future has in store for me in my second semester. One more month left in Kansas, and a whole future left ahead of me with Arabic. Will report back soon!

Side note: I added a small air plant to my Kansas botany collection to keep my basil plants company!

New City & New Language

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!

Intro & Project GO

Happy June everyone! I’m currently blogging from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Before I begin talking about my adventures, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m 19 and was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. I recently finished my first year at Riddle working towards an Aerospace Engineering degree. When I’m on campus, I spend most of my time doing homework, working out, or doing yoga, but I’m also in Air Force ROTC, the Honors Program, Women in Aviation, O-Team, and will be a Resident Advisor for the first time in Fall 2018 (which I’m very excited about). I also spent this past month home working at a garden center because I love plants.

Furthermore, this past spring I applied to, and was graciously accepted, to participate in Project Global Officer (Project GO) to learn Arabic at the University of Kansas for two months. Project GO is a program sponsored by the Department of Defense that allows ROTC students to choose from a list of in-demand languages, such as Arabic, Korean, Russian, Urdu (and many more), then provides them with the proper resources to learn them!

Since I have zero experience with Arabic thus far, aside from some recently downloaded Arabic alphabet apps on my phone, I will be studying domestically this year, but I hope to be able to delve into Arabic even more by studying abroad in the upcoming summers. Perhaps visits to Jordan or Morocco are on the table?

My language experience up to this point consists of English as my primary language, plus 8 years studying Spanish from kindergarten through middle school, 7 years studying French from middle through high school, and soon to be a minor in Arabic. Aside from classroom knowledge I have cousins in Panama that I practice Spanish with, my best friend is conveniently also fluent in French, I spent my spring break this year in France, and my Arabic experience is coming soon.

I am currently just finishing up packing for my two month outing to Kansas. Some of my must have items are index cards, highlighters, notebooks, ALL the writing utensils, running shoes, and I’m in the process of researching if I’m allowed to carry a small succulent plant with me on the plane or not.

All packed!

With my minimal exposure to Arabic and due to the fact that I’ve never been to Kansas before, I am a combination of extremely excited, and slightly nervous for the next two months.

I will be commencing my adventure with a flight from ORF to MCI. I will update soon with progress!
Learn more about Project GO here.