In our Summer 2014 Intensive Arabic Program, scholarship winner, Taylor Mosely, had an amazing experience. Taylor, a student from Vassar University, found that she not only improved her Arabic language skills significantly, but also learned a great deal about the region and Omani culture in general. She outlines the highlights of her experience on our program in her end of semester essay. All photo credit goes to Taylor Mosely.
Before I made my journey to Muscat, Oman in the summer of 2014, I sat down and contemplated the reasons why I wanted to study Arabic. I came to the conclusion that my home institution, Vassar College, has indeed opened my mind and given me the tools to constructively think about the society I live in. I believed, however, that there was so much more for me to learn that could not be taught on campus. I realized that as an International Studies major, it was imperative that I study abroad. I was highly interested in learning the Arabic language outside of the United States because it would expose me to a whole new world. I was also excited to get an intimate view of culture outside of my own. For me, the possibility of studying Arabic in a foreign country was energizing because I deeply wanted to become familiar with the Middle Eastern region on a personal level. All things considered, I thought that studying abroad would expand my personal horizons, strengthen my language skills and deepen my understanding of the Arab history and culture.
Those short, blissful months I spent in Oman greatly exceeded any expectations that I had presumed. Coming into this experience, I wanted to advance my speaking and listening abilities. Within eight weeks, I was able to comfortably speak in Arabic and convey my thoughts in language that was once foreign to me. My hard work in the classroom definitely paid off and I was proud of myself for accomplishing this goal. Even though I was beginning to become “comfortable” with the Arabic language, this achievement was one that I, surprisingly, cherished less.
I discovered that I profoundly treasured the time I spent, and ultimately learned the most about Arab culture, outside of the classroom. I will never forget the days when I would talk with my professors about everything from Arab music and “slang words” to Tom Cruise and American-style pancakes. I will never forget the numerous trips my classmates and I made to the Turkish restaurant across the street from our hotel (at least four times a week). In that restaurant, we became a part of the Al–Khoud community and exchanged stories with people from all over the world. I will never forget the time our Professor took us out to eat for Iftar during Ramadan. I will never forget the food in Oman and all of it spices and delectable dishes. I will never forget how salty the ocean tasted and how vibrant the turquoise colored water appeared against the tan sand. I will never forget how charitable, wonderful, and polite each Omani was to me. Last but not least, I will never forget how much I have changed for the better. Today, I am ready to take on my senior year of college knowing that I have become a young woman who has uncovered and is exercising her strengths and capabilities. Today, I am independent, confident, and more knowledgeable about the gulf region of the Middle East. I feel blessed to have experienced a different culture and will carry these memories with me for as long as I can.