I am currently working as a manager at Bottom Line, a non-profit that serves first-generation, low-income college students. We are located in Brooklyn, NY, although we travel to meet our students at the schools they attend. I work with five counselors and twenty of my own students (the usual caseload for counselors is eighty students), and we provide academic, financial aid, career, and general life counseling. Our goal is to help our students graduate and find jobs that are fulfilling to them!
Studying Arabic helped me prepare for what I am doing now because it expanded my worldview and general cultural awareness. While I don’t actively speak Arabic with my students (none of my current students speak Arabic, although many are practicing Muslims and have some familiarity with the script), it helps to be able to understand the phonetic pronunciation of many of our students’ names, and to have a sense of why, if a student is fasting for Ramadan, they might be more tired than usual. Overall, I think it helps my students feel more comfortable to know that I wanted to immerse myself in a different language, because many of them speak multiple languages, as well. It shows that we recognize a larger outside world, one that connects us all.
I started taking Arabic classes at Williams because, superficially, I liked the way the language looked, and, less superficially, I wanted to be a better global citizen. I took a class in Middle Eastern Literature in high school, and I thought to myself, “Wow, the world is a lot bigger than a small town in Indiana.”
One of my most rewarding experiences through taking Arabic at Williams came my junior year, when I gave a five-minute presentation to my class on the history of the Maronites in Lebanon. I remember thinking, “Wow, I actually know what I’m talking about, and can give a detail presentation in Arabic without notes!” I don’t think I could do that today, but I was happy to feel that it was within my grasp. Also, when a Syrian friend told me I had a good accent. That was a great day.
I only have one bucket list item for Arabic students at Williams: VISIT AN ARABIC-SPEAKING COUNTRY. I never did during my time at Williams (I was a JA and didn’t travel over Winter Study or the summer), and I really wish I had gone abroad to practice my language skills.
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