Caroline studied Arabic at Shawnee Mission South High School, and now studies at George Washington University. She studied with teachers from the Qasid Institute during her study abroad to Amman with the program NSLI-Y.
My high school Arabic teacher and I knew I had a special gift for studying Arabic when I took my final exam freshman year: the speaking portion was supposed to be 2 minutes, but I spoke for 15 minutes without any interruption. Long story short, my teacher and I worked hard to push my abilities, and I am forever grateful for her care and instruction throughout my high school years.
I’m now studying in college, and my current Arabic professor is so incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable. We share a love for the complexity and depth of the language, and she has allowed me to perceive and appreciate Arabic more earnestly than I ever could have imagined.
I could truly ramble on for hours about the great moments I’ve shared with my Arabic teachers, professors, and classmates, but, being the sophisticated character I am, I’m going to highlight a few of my favorite experiences with animals.
The strangest experience I have had to date is most definitely the moment an Arab man in Jordan made bird calls and lured pigeons onto my head. During a teacher-led trip, my fellow trouble-making peer and I noticed a little house overlooking downtown Amman, and we asked our teacher if we could walk by it. She told us we could, but that we were to come straight back to her. Upon reaching the house, a man sitting on the flat roof invited us up. We climbed his outdoor steps, and he offered to show us his pigeons. Before I realized what was happening, he was standing beside me, making the strangest sound I have ever heard, summoning pigeons to land on my head. That’s a moment you never forget, and it’s a moment worth the light scolding we received from our teacher about stranger danger.
Another unique experience occurred while I was in Morocco when I twinned with a monkey. My friends were introducing me to the busiest market in Marrakech when a local tossed a monkey onto my shoulders. One of my friends happened to snap a photo of the monkey and I coincidently making the exact same face as the man reached out to take the monkey back. I’ve included the photo for your enjoyment.
Though there are countless experiences I’ve had with live animals throughout my Arabic studies, I’m going to end with recognizing the class pet from my high school Arabic class, Felix. Felix is a plush elephant whom I impulsively grabbed and purchased in the check-out line at my local grocery store. I named him Felix because the word for “elephant” in Arabic is pronounced “feel.” Felix became an integral part of the class, as we used him as a prop in dozens of games and occasionally crafted for him paper accessories instead of staying on task. Felix is an icon in the classroom, and I will forever cherish the moments I shared with my teacher and classmates as we tossed him around the room.
When you choose to study Arabic, you have no idea what’s in store. Arabic has provided me with friends, teachers, professors, host siblings, a beautiful host mom, and moments defined by laughter and tears and joy and anger. From dancing with bedouins in the desert to doing the chicken dance in Arabic as a punishment for excessive talking, Arabic has been the source of the most valuable, unforgettable moments in my life, and I can’t imagine myself without it.