Two Hollins University first-year students are heading overseas this summer to engage in one of the biggest challenges of their academic careers: becoming adept in the Arabic language.
Dade Hundertmark ’19 of Cary, North Carolina, is spending six weeks in intensive study at the Arab-American Language Institute in Meknes, Morocco (AALIM). “In today’s complex world, Arabic has become a key and critical language in the effort to achieve worldwide peace and understanding,” the institute’s website states. “At AALIM, we strive to convey the fundamental beauty of the language while responding to the practical communication needs of today’s students, who may plan work in diplomacy, government, NGOs, or private business.”
Hanna Strauss ’19 of Keswick, Virginia, is tackling a grueling schedule of Arabic classes and practice sessions over a seven-week period at the Center for International Learning (CIL) in Muscat, Oman. The CIL is Muscat’s oldest language learning center and uses a “total immersion” method to give students as much proficiency in Arabic as possible in a short period of time. Formal learning sessions are supplemented by excursions to other parts of Oman so that CIL students are given ample opportunity to put their new language skills to the test.
Hundertmark and Strauss first heard of the programs through their participation in the Model Arab League last fall at Hollins. The conference was sponsored in part by the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR), which has an ongoing relationship with both the AALIM and the CIL.
Hundertmark’s interest in Arabic stems from her desire to apply the study of law and business ethics to work in Africa. “Since Arabic is the most prominent spoken language in the area, it seems a good idea to study the language,” she explained. Hundertmark’s family has a connection with Morocco: Her grandfather was stationed in Meknes during World War II and she grew up with stories about it. “The city is over 1,000 years old. It has all this history and I want to be there to see it, to feel it, to touch it.”
Strauss said the supportive and encouraging atmosphere at Hollins inspired her to apply to a program that involves living and learning in Oman, a country very different from the United States. “My time at Hollins makes me feel that all things are possible. Being here just naturally creates opportunities to do things I had never thought of before. I never felt I was doing this alone.”
Even though the CIL program will very demanding, Strauss is eager to begin. “Arabic is a growing language. It’s the language of an important part of the world.”
Professor of Political Science Ed Lynch, who brought the Model Arab League to Hollins, said Oman is one of the most important countries in the Middle East, but one that is not well-known to Americans. He visited Oman last summer on a trip sponsored by NCUSAR.
“Oman is one of the safest countries in the world,” he noted. “The people of Oman have a very welcoming attitude towards Americans, and have a lot of curiosity about our country.” He pointed out that Condé Nast Traveler recently listed Oman as one of the globe’s top travel destinations.
Lynch added that he is delighted about having “two of my most enthusiastic Model Arab League participants excited enough and dedicated enough to take this huge step in their education.”