Transitions & Training

Happy August everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, Florida, yes that’s right folks the eagle has landed!

In the past week I’ve been all over the country in my journey and travels to finally get all my things packed and ready to come back to school. I concluded my summer studies of third year Arabic at the University of Arizona with a series of reading, writing, and spoken examinations, then hopped on a plane and “high tailed” it back to my city in Virginia for about a day, before road tripping back to the lovely humid state of Florida. The change from 5% humidity in Arizona to 90% humidity in Florida is drastic but, fear not, do-able.

Turkish coffee my friend from Libya made my roommate and I while we were studying for our final Arabic exams!

Now that I am back in Florida and reunited with my beloved Keurig and seemingly endless supply of coffee and tea, I realized that Daytona Beach really does feel like home. My cozy room, blogging in the morning from bed with a cup of tea and an airport view, amazing sunsets, my favorite run loop, beach vibes. While the school year isn’t in full swing yet I’m back at RA training prepping hall decorations, door tags, and bulletin boards, and have my Orientation Retreat rolling up in only a few days too. There’s almost an entire month of preparation for new students to come in the fall and I am extremely excited.

Coffee from a cafe in Tucson

In other news I’m half way moved into my dorm room (ha). Somehow I forgot to bring hangers and haven’t had a chance to hang up any of my clothes yet… so I’m one Walmart trip or one amazon order away from being unpacked. I also omitted plants from my journey to Florida but I am in the market for some so look out for updates on that! Also my road trip from Norfolk, VA to Daytona Beach, FL with the ‘rents and my pup Kita was one for the books. Sleeping in the back seat with a sweet dog was absolutely fantastic.

My dad driving us down to Riddle, with my favorite sleeping pit bull.

To sum it up I will be continuing my Arabic studies this semester as an independent study at Riddle, which is one of the classes I’m most excited about, aside from AFROTC starting up again, and of course being an RA on the sports student hall and getting to meet my residents, and leading my Orientation group. Overall, I’m just excited for the semester to start. That’s what’s popping in my life right now. Will report back as the looming Fall Semester approaches. Keep on keeping on.

Sunshine & San Diego

Happy July everyone! Also happy summer! I’m currently blogging from Tucson, Arizona with the temperatures in the 100+ everyday, typically around 108 and the intense sunshine and low humidity that accompanies the desert. 

The first semester of my third year level Arabic class has concluded with me obtaining a final grade of an A. I took a small vacation during fourth of July weekend to San Diego, California with some friends who also speak arabic, which was a great break. 

I’d never been to California before so this spontaneous road trip that began with my friends and I renting a car for the long weekend, stopping for snacks and coffee, then setting off, was so much fun. The drive from Arizona to California is only about five hours, for some that might feel like a lot, but the scenery of the desert, the mountains, and eventually the ocean, plus great music and four friends who had only met a month before was truly a wonderful adventure.

A mountain side view of the Pacific Ocean in San Diego.

We only had a few days to explore the city so we spent them at about three different beaches, Coronado, Pacific, and Imperial, watched fireworks seaside on the night of the fourth, and visited many 24 hour Mexican food places. We also briefly hiked along some coastal mountains and I thrived in all the vegan food options that San Diego had to offer. For the record, my love of chips and salsa has only increased. My favorite beach foods are now veggie pizza, apples, and chili powder covered mangoes. I commend California for satisfying my morning brunch and coffee shop needs as well. 

Sunset at the San Diego Harbor!

We also spent time in downtown San Diego exploring the harbor and all the restaurants and shops in Little Italy. Not to mention we had some quite entertaining encounters with Birds, the motorized scooters, not actual birds. They are an extremely popular form of transportation there and while they are an effective way to get around they are also so fun to play with when you’re with a group of friends. I highly encourage you to try them for the experience, if you have not.

In other news, I have just completed my first week in my second semester of third year Arabic at the University of Arizona and I have less than a month left here. My first semester flew by and while I am enjoying the nice break from studying engineering, the classes here are rigorous but definitely not as stressful, or perhaps I’ve just gotten better at managing stressful situations? Will comment more on this when school starts back up in the fall and my normal engineering and AFROTC schedule is back in full swing again.

Side note: I added some new stickers to my laptop case, a small Arizona one in the shape of the state and an Arabic one. 

My laptop case featuring two new stickers… I need to get some Riddle stickers to add to it when I get back to Florida.

The Arabic sticker says: ان مع العسر يسرا which means with every hardship comes ease.

Keep on keeping on folks and enjoy the summer, stay cool! Will report back soon!

Productivity & Priorities

 !أهلا و سهلا

Happy June everyone! I’m currently blogging from Tucson, Arizona where the weather forecast is 100+ for as far ahead as predictable, and clouds are still a rarity, despite it being monsoon season. 

A small sample of the abundance of cacti that call Tucson home on the University of Arizona’s campus.

I am currently blogging from a shaded outdoor patio on a lovely Sunday morning at a local coffee shop. My Spotify playlist as of recently consists of Arabic music, coffeehouse study tunes, and meditation beats.

I am a week away from finishing my first month here in Arizona, aka one semester of an intensive language program. This coming week I have class two days before my final exam and then a short break for the 4th of July. 

I have found myself spending a lot of time in cafes and coffee, tea, or expresso houses as of recently, and while this is a recurring theme no matter what city I’m in, upon reflection of this I have begin to learn a bit more about myself, which leads me to my next topic (essential to college students): under the topic of time management falls the balance of prioritizing your responsibilities and effectively managing your free time.

Weekday mornings with my wing buddy typically consist of alternating places to grab coffee and breakfast.

While in Tucson studying intensely my schedule had been pretty full, but I’ve found while it’s absolutely glorious to take time to relax and unwind, I thrive in the chaos of a busy lifestyle. I find myself being most attracted to filling up my days and weeks with plans in the calendar on my phone, making daily to do lists, and even when I study or do homework I feel most productive in areas that are calm where I can buzz away at my work and get in the zone. 

Here’s a peaceful view from the pool I took the other day as the sunset over the mountains and reflected beautifully on the water.

When I’m at Riddle during the Fall and Spring semesters my favorite places to study are in my room with music, in study rooms, or in Starbucks outside. There is just something fundamentally appealing about working outside in the sunshine with technology. As I currently soak up the juxtaposition of working on my computer with the sound of cicadas in the background and the familiar universal chatter of coffee shop conversations, I find a productive home in the atmosphere that I am attracted to in every city. 

It’s so important to know yourself and find out under what circumstances you do your best work in. While this may take some time to figure out, and definitely some trial and error, the process of learning more about yourself and how to initiate prime productivity conditions is 100% worth it.

For example, certain subjects in school I prefer to study in groups, while others I prefer to work alone on. If you put a little time and effort into figuring out what atmospheres you prefer to do work in before classes get chaotic with exams and projects, it is extremely advantageous in preparation for your future self under stress during crunch time.

I wish everyone a continually relaxing and productive summer. Will report back soon. Have a happy 4th y’all!

AZ & AFROTC

Happy June everyone! I’m currently blogging from Tucson, Arizona, where I lay comfortably in the shade around 6am on a Sunday morning. 

A few fun differences in Tucson from Daytona Beach include the high elevation, the extremely dry heat, the seemingly more intense sun, lots of cacti, and Tucson is surrounded by mountains on three sides, which makes for some pretty amazing views. Whenever I introduce myself to people here and tell them I go to Riddle their first impression is the I attend Prescott because it’s only a few hours away, but truth be told I’m an ocean soul and I attend Daytona Beach, which makes for an even more interesting conversation.

I am currently just finishing up two weeks in AZ which means I’m about half way through my first semester of Arabic 405 which is Advanced Arabic I at the University of Arizona where I have tests every Friday and I have already taken my midterm examination. 

Arabic 405 is an intensive course in which Monday-Friday I have four hours of classroom time every day, followed by an hour break for lunch, office hours (which are essentially an extension of class) with the professor for two hours, followed by an hour of tutoring, a break for dinner, then two hours of language partner time, in addition to homework, projects, and additional studying I do on my own. My schedule is definitely busy, but typically it always is, and learning Arabic while challenging, is extremely fun.

I got some more photos from my time at Field Training during the Max 1 session!
Behold Alpha Flight at the Assault Course Finish line.

While I’m attending UA for summer courses with Project Global Officer there are students from all over the country here with me from the Army and Navy ROTC programs. My class consists of a total of five people, two of which are from Project GO. That being said, there are no extra “ROTC obligations” over the summer. Although naturally it’s encouraged to workout, we don’t have scheduled PT sessions or wear uniforms, and our primary job right now is to learn Arabic. I highly recommend studying over the summer because it makes it so much easier to give maximum effort when you don’t have any other classes to worry about.

Here’s a flashback from Dining Out this past Spring 2019 semester! Currently missing my AFROTC family.

Aside from this my acclimating to AZ has been a moderately rocky one, pun intended. My body was not used to the dry air or intense heat as I grew up on the coast and Riddle is by the beach too. But I’ve been running in the mornings or in the late evenings to escape the heat… even though the difference between 108 and 98 seems negligible, and I typically spend the weekends exploring Tucson’s coffee shops, restaurants, or going hiking or to the pool. Stay tuned for pictures of cacti and coffee to come. Will report back soon, stay cool folks. P.S. it’s monsoon season in Tucson and I’ve still yet to see any rain.

Endings & New Beginnings

Greetings and salutations folks. I am currently blogging from my hotel room and it’s my last night in Daytona Beach for a while, or at least until August. Tomorrow I’m road tripping back to my home in Virginia and about a week later I’ll be heading to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama for 14 days of Field Training at the first session for summer 2019. Upon completion of training, I have about a day to catch my breath before I head to Arizona for Project GO, round two furthering my Arabic studies.

Out of my entire sophomore year, and quite frankly my time at Riddle thus far, this past month has been the absolute best. Now I say best with the full disclosure that I had still had homework, quizzes, presentations, group projects, tests, and final exams, but I honestly had a great time because one: my mindset, and two: the people I surrounded myself with.

My grades this semester were the best they’ve ever been in college so far and nothing monumental changed in priorities. I’ve always put school first, but this semester I put myself first in a lot of situations too. I made genuine connections with friends that helped me to de-stress so much. I took time for myself to do yoga and meditate and workout. I wish I could tell you I got a ton of sleep this semester, but I didn’t, truthfully I had very many late nights and very stressful nights trying to grasp concepts while studying. My classes this semester weren’t easy, but somehow my outlook changed and I went from overwhelming myself with concern over grades to going with the flow and putting more focus on learning material, and also unwinding. My work/life balance this semester was something that definitely improved from freshman year. Even in studying for finals, I strategized by putting in a few solid hours of studying and practice problems, taking a break, then getting back into it. Rest is SO important, especially for your brain.

Now that the semester is over, I am spending my short break before I go off to training by reading, working out, and hopefully sleeping a lot more. Books that I’ve dove into recently are The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. I have also recently discovered my new favorite poet too, her name is Morgan Harper Nichols and her art is immensely insightful, powerful, and healing.

In other news, before leaving Daytona Beach, I had the privilege of going to brunch with some of my favorite gal pals, and I got to attend my good friend’s commissioning ceremony, where he officially became a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

Brunch with one of my best friends before we part ways for the summer.
Post commissioning ceremony with this newly sworn in Air Force Officer.

Now as I prepare for my journey back home, Field Training, and a summer of Arizona heat studying Arabic, I would like to leave you with this: every ending is an opportunity for beginnings. Will report back soon. Keep on keeping on!

AFROTC & April

Happy April everyone! I’m currently blogging from Daytona Beach, keeping my wanderlust at bay with promises to myself that doing the little things now will allow me the opportunities to travel and do the things I want to do later.

Up until fairly recently, approximately one day ago to be exact, my summer plans were up in the air, BUT thankfully with the help of some amazing program coordinators, advisors, AFROTC cadre, and my friends I have a semi organized plan for what’s happening when finals conclude and I start the summer between my sophomore and junior year.

AFROTC officially wraps up with the conclusion of my Field Training Preparation semester on our final training day which looks to be roughly a week before finals.

My favorite girl gang and I at AFROTC’s annual Dining Out event.

After AFROTC concludes, the last day of classes for everyone is Thursday, April 25, followed by Friday, April 26 being Study Day. In my opinion Study Day is basically a super stressful holiday, where you spent the day hopping between your room, the library, study groups, supplemental instruction sessions, exam reviews held by professors or teaching assistants, and doing SO many practice problems.

Next, exams start on Saturday and run until Wednesday, May 1. After this, as a Resident Advisor, I stay on campus doing closing procedures and final preparations in the resident halls after residents have left to prepare to switch over to summer RAs and students moving in to take summer classes. My RA leave date is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7. After packing up and moving out, I’ll drive back to Virginia with my mom on May 8 and have about 10 days where I’ll be working part time at one of my favorite garden centers and working out a lot until May 17, which is GO TIME.

By that, I mean I leave for an intense fourteen days of Field Training at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. I get back to VA from Field Training on May 31, then I have a day to recoup and pack, before leaving to Tucson, Arizona!

A particularly radiating sunrise view from my dorm room, which gives me high standards for the views in Arizona.

I have the amazing opportunity this summer to once again take part in the Department of Defense’s Project Global Officer program to study upper levels of Arabic domestically at the University of Arizona for two months. I am extremely excited to take part in this truly awesome program once again and continue my Arabic studies. After last summer when I initiated my Arabic studies I’ve truly been hooked and have been trying to gain as much exposure and knowledge as I can everyday. I finish up in Arizona on August 7, then I travel back to Virginia for a few days before coming back to Florida August 11 for RA training for the fall 2019 semester and Orientation Team training. 

Side note: I recently planted some basil seeds in a cup by my window sill and they’re flourishing!

This summer will be busy to say the least, but I’m excited. Today was my grandmother’s 71st birthday and while I talked to her on the phone this morning she listed to me her full day’s schedule of events, to which I responded that she’s 71, she should relax. In response to this she told me, “No, I don’t want to relax, that’s boring” which is a philosophy that is resonating with me for summer 2019. Will report back soon. Keep on keeping on!

Finals & Nile Crocodiles

Happy July everyone! I’m currently blogging from Washington DC. (We’re not in Kansas anymore!)

In addition to all the usual events, my summer in Kansas concluded with an Arabic Homestay Dinner, conversation tables, presentations, a Saudi Arabian movie, an Oral Proficiency Exam, lunch field trips, dinners with our professor, a final exam consisting of listening, speaking, and writing portions, a final skit performance, and of course lots of coffee.

الحمد لله

I thankfully finished with an A in both semesters, but more importantly I made irreplaceable memories with my professor, tutors, and classmates. Also, thankfully, my last two weeks included more “mesa’a’ah” which is my newly discovered favorite Egyptian food.

Arabic Homestay Dinner at our tutor’s house!

Brief recap of the last two months:

After spending hours every day in person, emailing, texting, or calling each other I can honestly say I am so proud to have had the opportunity to study amongst likeminded individuals and to learn and develop language skills in such a supportive environment with my classmates, our tutor, and our professor.

I can now hold a conversation in Arabic, converse on a variety of topics, am more culturally aware, and confidently have a strong foundation of Arabic skills consisting of standard high language vocabulary and a lot of Egyptian dialect.

Family photo of our class with our classmate’s daughter!

For me learning Arabic was a chance to truly open my eyes to the beautiful diversities in the world, especially in Arabic speaking regions such as the Middle East where non-Arabic speakers commonly have a lot of misconceptions about not only language, but culture.

I have only begun my journey in understanding how culture contributes to perception, connotation, and communication. Educating myself is the start to contributing a more globally aware society, starting by breaking language barriers and expanding to clarifying misconceptions and squashing stereotypes. Learning Arabic has allowed me to start developing an understanding of culture and ways of life very different from what I, as a native English speaker, was typically used to. Despite cultural differences between geographical regions, languages bridge the gap between different people and creates an opportunity for communication and understanding to develop.

My classmate and I with our professor!

I would absolutely recommend Project GO to ROTC students, and I would highly encourage anyone up for a challenge to learn a new language as they have numerous benefits beyond the classroom. Learning languages truly helps to form more globally aware citizens. They broaden perspectives, open up doors for communication, educate people on culture, and can lead to amazing opportunities whether it be connecting people within your community, or meeting new people traveling abroad.

I am very thankful for this experience and excited to continue my quest learning Arabic inside and outside of the classroom in the years to come.

Visual representation of the word “ممكن” by my classmate and I, which doesn’t directly translate into English, but is ممكن a verb for maybe/sort of.

Side note: My professor is from Egypt, which houses the Nile River. In the Nile there are many crocodiles. Nile crocodiles can range from 15-20 feet long. Below is a visual representation of the size of a small (15-foot) crocodile, measured out by myself, my classmate, and our other classmate’s daughter.

One 15-foot Nile crocodile!

Will report back soon!

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!