Students of Arabic are encouraged to spend a summer or semester abroad studying the language in its native environment. Bowdoin students have over the past five years traveled to locales as diverse as Fez, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Amman, Beirut, Rabat and Cairo to immerse themselves in the study of this challenging language.
Here are some recent experiences of our students:
Terence Barley '15
Studying Arabic in Morocco was a rewarding and enriching experience. The fact that I took Arabic at Bowdoin gave me an automatic advantage in that I could read and understand signs and partake in basic communication. However, being in Morocco and living in the language enabled me to take my skills further, especially with the local dialect Darija. In just a span of a few weeks I had learned the names of food, slang, emotions and my ability to converse in Arabic was far more natural. In addition the Moroccan people were probably some of the friendliest I had met in all of my travels and were incredibly welcoming to teach and help me learn their language.
Uchenna Ezibe '14
I spent a wonderful semester abroad in Rabat, Morocco through the CIEE program from January to May 2013. After my program, I spent three months teaching English and living in Rabat. I learned a great deal in my study abroad program, and had the opportunity to study French, Moroccan Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, the Koran, and Moroccan Culture. I believe the best aspect of my study abroad experience was my host family, however. I lived with a family of nine in the Kasbah d’Oudayas, and the love and care that they shared with me made me feel very much at home. We were also able to travel extensively during our program, and the opportunity to visit many Moroccan cities was a huge highlight to my stay there.
Isaac Jaegerman '16
I spent the summer in Fez, Morocco, where I studied at the Arabic Language Institute and traveled independently on the weekends with classmates. I stayed with a Moroccan host family in the labyrinthian, medieval Medina and commuted every morning to the American Center in the Ville Nouvelle section of the city. It's now a cliche specific to Fez, but I'll say it anyway: living in the old medina really did give me the feeling of living in another time--one where you buy your bread every day from the hole-in-the-wall bakery next door, where you wait for donkeys to pass you in the alleys, not cars, and one in which it is still common to know all your neighbors and greet them daily. I enjoyed and appreciate the time I spent in Fez for the language instruction I received and for the sense of perspective I gained.
Jennifer McMorrow '14
I spent the spring of 2013 studying with Middlebury Schools Abroad in Alexandria, Egypt. Because it was a Middlebury program, the central feature of our academic program was an Arabic-only pledge for the duration of the semester, which allowed us to truly focus on improving our Arabic, especially the Egyptian dialect. We also had Egyptian language partners who were students themselves at the University of Alexandria, and it was their enthusiasm for teaching us the ropes that allowed me to make my semester abroad such a richly immersive experience. I developed a deeper understanding of so many aspects of Middle Eastern history, politics and culture that I before had only understood from a distance, and I look forward to returning to the Middle East as soon as I have the opportunity in order to build on this experience.
Marta Misiulaityte '14
During the fall of 2012 I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan. I was enrolled in the Arabic Language and Culture program at the University of Jordan through CIEE. I devoted about 30 hours a week to the study of Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Jordanian Arabic. The class sessions were conducted entirely in Arabic, and we had native Arabic speakers as our teachers who often spoke little English. CIEE is a big program, so they offer Arabic instruction at many different levels, which ensures that everybody finds a suitable class. I also took two classes on regional politics and and women's literature, conducted in English. Not only was my semester in Amman an academically challenging experience, but it also allowed me to learn, in unparalleled ways, from critical examination of my surroundings.
Kate Herman '15
This summer I spent two months in the West Bank. During the second month I lived in Beit Sahour (right outside of Bethlehem) with a family while I participated in a cultural immersion program. The program was run by the Siraj Center, an alternative travel center, and included language classes in colloquial Arabic, cooking lessons, lectures on politics and culture, and a volunteer position at a center for the developmentally disabled, Al-Malath. During the weekends we traveled to different towns throughout the West Bank and I participated in some political demonstrations. It was an great month and a truly amazing way to experience the country.
Rami Stucky '14
I really enjoyed the diversity of Lebanon. Apart from immigrants from the Arabic speaking world, Lebanon has a whole range of South-East Asian and East African immigrants. In terms of Arab immigrants in Lebanon, there are tons of Syrians, Palestinians and Sudanese. The cool thing about being in Beirut is becoming accustomed to and hearing the nuances of different dialects in the middle of the street.
Daisy Alioto '13
Salam! I spent a wonderful semester in Rabat learning first hand the endless hospitality of the Moroccan people. Through SIT I had the opportunity to live with a host family, conduct independent research, and improve my Arabic skills. Program excursions ranged from the dunes of Merzouga to the streets of Marrakesh. I came home with a strengthened curiosity for international perspectives and a love of sweet mint tea.
Grace Klein '13
Just across the Atlantic and a couple hours from Spain is a country where society functions according to a different set of social norms. The Arabic instruction I received on my program in Rabat, Morocco helped me better engage with the events I saw and the people I met, and really learn through cross-cultural exchange. It inspired me to keep learning, and now I’m on an even faster track to becoming fluent as an Arabic student here at Bowdoin.
Scott Perry ‘13
In the summer of 2011, I took part in a study abroad program in Fez, the cultural center of Morocco. Weekday classes and weekend excursions allowed me both to improve my Arabic with native speakers and experience a unique culture firsthand. We attended the grand opening of the Fez Sacred Music Festival in Bab Makina and Sufi performances, which were like nothing I had ever heard before. This was one of the more fulfilling experiences I have had; meeting both fellow students and Moroccan residents gave me a diverse sampling of individual perspectives, some of which would not be found outside the region I visited. All in all, I found that being immersed in a culture alien to oneself is not to be balked at, but embraced.
Michael Mort ‘12
Arabic has been a staple of my education at Bowdoin. After two years of study, I decided to take it abroad for a life-changing year in Jerusalem. Little did I know the Arab Spring would erupt across the region during my stay, making my year abroad even more special and dispelling any doubt that Arabic would be of great use in the future.
Adam Rasgon ‘13
Studying abroad in Amman, Jordan was a truly unique experience. I immersed myself in a unique Middle Eastern culture with interesting traditions and delectable food. Moreover, Jordan, located in the Levant, is a central location to travel to other countries in the region. I was able to travel to Egypt, the Palestinian territories, and Israel. Most importantly, my language skills improved immensely, especially my ability to communicate in the spoken dialects.
Anna Ackerman ‘12
Studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco was a terrific experience. I lived with a host family in the old medina of Rabat – a walled-off section of the city with eager vendors lining the streets, hungry wandering cats, tourists visiting from all over the world, surfers strolling back from the beach iun their wetsuits, and the hum of the call to prayer five times a day. I studied intermediate Arabic for three hours every morning, and took seminars on human rights issues in the afternoon at the Cross Cultural Learning Center. My time in Morocco opened my eyes to peaceful political protest and the emergence of the Arab Spring, obvious gender inequalities, and Islam. I made a host of Moroccan friends through the surf club that I joined, and through running at the local track in Fez.