What is your favorite travel memory?
Well, I have traveled to quite a few countries which has guided me to better understand the world around me. My favorite memory is the first time I flew to Europe to learn more about European lifestyle and education systems.
In 2011, I went to Finland for a week for training about EVS (European Voluntary Services). This amazing experience inspired me and the ideas I've left with have reflected positively on our work at the center.
I really liked the Finnish strategy for achieving equality and excellence in education. I managed to visit number of schools and educational institutions in the north of the country. I was amazed by the educational system, educational activities, and the size of public spending on education, which I saw as impressive. This experience helped me to concentrate more on the quality of the education and how we can improve our performance to achieve excellent results at the center.
How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?
Working as international programs coordinator has made me so close to so many people from all over the world. This position allows me to understand more about the cultures of others, especially those who come from countries that differ totally from the culture of Middle Eastern people.
The center has hosted over 150 participants who come from more than 27 countries around the world; some of them have come from countries that I have never heard about at all. Therefore, this position was a great addition to my work experience where I learned how to deal, communicate, and interact with large number of participants who have different backgrounds, cultures and ways of thinking.
Overall, my work at the center has enriched my cultural knowledge and enhanced my practical experience.
What is the best story you've heard from a return student?
We had many of amazing stories of pervious participants, one example is Mayuki Nishimura, a Japanese undergraduate student majoring in international relations and Middle Eastern politics. Mayuki has studied at both the Ritsumeikan University in Japan and the University of London.
When she is not studying and volunteering she likes to dance, watch films and sing in the shower. She came to Palestine to volunteer and learn Arabic at the Excellence Center for a month in summer 2016.
Mayuki told me the following about her experience: “It was a genuine pleasure to teach the children’s class as they were so quick in learning and picking up new expressions and songs I taught them to build up their grammar in English. Every time I entered the classroom, I could see from their shining eyes how these little students were eager and motivated to learn English.
Teaching in the English club was also a lot of fun. I myself learned a lot about Palestinian and local Hebron society from the student’s perspectives. Once we had a very inspiring discussion on jobs and careers, future dreams and gender norms and gender inequality. One student even raised the point that gender is a social construct and both guys and girls actively engaged in the discussion. I also had a lot of fun learning Arabic with my teacher Afnan, who I also got to teach the children’s class with."
If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?
Well, it depends on what I want but anyway, I would choose the Volunteer in Palestine program since it has more flexibility in deciding the period of participation starting from one week up to three months.
This program gives you the opportunity to explore Palestine through visits to number of historical landmarks and sites.
It also allows you to understand the culture Palestine and to get to know what's really going on the ground instead of only seeing what the media shows you.
It allows you to interact with Palestinian students by being part of English conversational sessions that are organized at the center. Volunteers will have the opportunity to meet Palestinian university and school students as well as community members.
It does not stop there, it lets you engage in group of social activities such as 60 minutes in English, English club, conversational day, drawing activities and so much more.
Volunteers also get three hours of Arabic every week with a native speaker teacher where you learn spoken Arabic and can embrace the opportunity to communicate with locals.
What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?
First of all, the Excellence Center managed in around 5 years to be one of the top educational centers in Palestine that offer English courses to Palestinians and Arabic intensive courses to internationals who aim to learn Arabic in Arab-speaking communities.
What makes us special and different in the educational field is that we care more about the quality of the education and courses that we offer, and put more effort into the educational means and methods.
Our teachers are qualified to teach interactively by using contemporary methods where they strongly believe in learning by doing. This way ensures effective participation of our students in the classes and grants them a very big chance to practice what they learn in order to get very good results.
Secondly, the Excellence Center is located in Hebron, which is one of the most conservative cities in all of Palestine. This makes our work even more challenging as we have to respect our community traditions and at the same time ensure the comfort of the program's participants who reflect totally different traditions and social behaviors.
I am very thankful to be part of the Excellence Center team, I've always been proud, though especially so when we achieve good results and we see our work growing day-by-day and year after year.
What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?
I think the biggest factor is the diversity in the staff's ideas which helps us to meet the needs of all of our program participants, and makes the atmosphere of work more enjoyable and productive.
The Excellence Center's staff consists of around 10 people. Each and every person does his/her work with passion and insistence to achieve the goals of the center. As an educational institution, we believe strongly in the importance that the role of education and cultural exchange plays in the lives of the Palestinian and international communities.