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The Excellence Center

Why choose The Excellence Center?

The Excellence Center/Engage in Palestine was established in June 2011 to provide educational, cultural, social, and community services to its diverse group of international students, interns, and volunteers, as well as to Palestinian children, refugees, women and youth in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine.

The ongoing success of the center has pushed us to continue our work in Germany, specifically in the city of Halle. The Excellence Center in Germany started to offer educational and community programs to both locals and internationals in 2018. Both Centers have had a great impact on refugees, children, migrants and members of local communities as well as on the internationals who come from different countries and backgrounds.

The Excellence Center believes strongly in the fundamental role that education plays in the lives of the Palestinian and German communities. To this end, the center will continue to develop and create new programs and activities that further this role.

Impact

Ethical Impact

With all our Arabic courses and volunteer programs, we aim to make a long term difference for the Palestinian local community through the exchange of ideas and “walking in each other’s shoes”. Our programs and courses foster shared learning, for both our community and you. During your Arabic course, you will get to learn so much more than just the language. You will also get to learn a lot about Palestinian culture and customs and the political situation in Palestine. Additionally, you will have many opportunities while outside the classroom to practice your Arabic in a natural and authentic way while navigating your new life in Hebron. Your time with us in Hebron will also provide you with many opportunities of cultural exchange and mutual learning, both with local Palestinians as well as with our other international participants.

Reviews

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Marcia
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

An Amazing Experience

Anyone "thinking" about joining the Excellence Center Europe family should "Just Do It" (in the words of Nike!)

My experience at The Excellence Center has been absolutely amazing! It started a little rough with a lack of communication. So much so, I was concerned about the legitimacy of the program! However, from the day I boarded the plane until the day I departed, I wondered "Why was I so nervous/scared/filled with anxiety?" From that day forward, communication was explicit! Dušan contacted me while I was still in the states; he met me at the train station...he immediately took me out to eat with group; he took me to my host family home, the host family was incredible! (By the way, whenever Martin and Robert visit the states, I got you!) Everything good I thought would happen was 10 times better!

Learning and teaching: Arabic was the language I chose to study while teaching English. *The decision to learn Arabic in a German speaking city was definitely a learning curve independent of all other learning taking place.* My Arabic teachers, Moaz and Ali, are AMAZING! Moaz seems more comfortable exploring and teaching history and he's VERY GOOD at it! He shares his experiences with descriptive visuals to describe the narrative in detail, giving the audience the illusion as if we're experiencing events in real time.... Ali is a really good teacher! He's passionate about teaching, patient, kind and overall a very nice guy! I didn't know ANY Arabic! However, I left with a strong foundation in reading and writing Arabic, (before now, I thought was impossible) in which I can continue building. Besides, anyone who can effectively teach Arabic to an American English speaker with a deep southern accent and not loose their cool has so much respect from me! These young men provided lessons beyond the pencil, paper and walls of the classroom. I pray God continually bless them beyond measure!

I am so blessed to have cross paths with this community of people! I came as a teacher, ready to provide service; having no idea of the transformation taking place in my own life. Today, I'm leaving having gain so much more than EVER anticipated; not only as a student of arabic, yet a student of history, humanity, perseverance, and resilience.

If you are looking for an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, The Excellence Center Europe is the perfect solution.

Thank you EC Europe for life's lessons that undoubtably provides perspective for what's truly important. I pray we meet again, soon!
❤️🤍💙~Marcia

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would not worry so much and stay longer!
Pros
  • Friendships formed are life changing.
  • Students and families are amazing!
  • Host family is WONDERFUL!
Cons
  • Communication
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Phia
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the Best Experiences of my Life

The ten weeks I spent at the Excellence Center in Europe this summer was really one of the best experiences of my life. I truly have never had a better summer. I took part in the Volunteer in Media & Journalism Program because I am a current student of journalism and German, and there isn't a better program out there that offers both valuable experience in media and language lessons as part of the same contract.
As someone who has always been kind of slow to open up to strangers, I was worried about coming here and feeling lonely or not making friends, but the emphasis the Center puts on building community and making everyone feel welcome and comfortable quickly made those worries go away. I have met people here that I am sure I will be friends with for the rest of my life, and I have gotten to know so many people from around the world that I never would've gotten the chance to meet otherwise.
The work I did here in media and journalism was fulfilling for me, both professionally and personally, and the freedom I was given to do the kind of writing and work I wanted to do was wonderful and empowering. I feel like I was able to grow so much here as a writer, worker, and friend.
Even if you have never left your home country before or think you might not be able to fit in here easily, I wholeheartedly encourage you to take the leap and come to the Excellence Center. It will unquestionably be one of the most memorable experiences of your life, and I promise you won't regret it.
I plan to return to visit the little family we have here as soon as possible, and I will miss the Center and the staff immensely.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I had never had Arab food before, but as the Center has staff from Syria and Palestine, the breakfasts we'd have every morning often had food from that region. It was new for me, but awesome! I feel like I got to know the cuisine and culture a lot just from the daily breakfasts we had, and it was great to share these meals with the other participants and center staff.
Pros
  • Meeting new people
  • Getting valuable work experience
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Candice
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Excellence Center & Volunteer Program, Halle

The Excellence Center provides a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere where volunteers can easily find students to teach and a supportive staff. Rafat does a great job of providing volunteers with many ways to be involved with the community. He also organizes so many fun opportunities to build morale and give everyone time to get to know one another. It’s easy to feel supported and at home, especially for those who haven’t traveled abroad often or at all. I would highly recommend this program for anyone who is open minded, likes or wants to travel, and enjoys helping others. The German and Arabic language lessons they provide are intensive and taught by very knowledgeable, native speakers.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come with great ideas to share and with knowledge of the English language. There are so many ways to teach English in this kind of setting, but if you know how you can utilize materials and resources in a creative way, it’s very helpful. The center provides materials as needed but being creative with what you have at hand or can easily find makes it more fun for the learner, especially the young ones!
Pros
  • Friendly, helpful staff
  • Wonderful families and grateful students
  • Comfortable, easy going atmosphere
Cons
  • Not enough variety of English nationalities, i.e. British, Australian, South African
  • Many very young volunteers who aren’t prepared to be on their own
Default avatar
Alex
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

The Odyssey into the heart of Palestinians

History is always written by victors. Instead of being documented impartially, it is usually being reported under the influence of some sort of ideology. Therefore, as a history and political science major student, it is imperative for me to view things as impartially and discreetly as possible.

In an era filled with information, with such vast information that it is arduous for us to distinguish accurate information from fake information, it is paramount for me to see eye to eye what really happened. With this in mind, I decided to fly to Palestine, to see what really happened, to see whether the news media, regardless of their political stance, is impartial or not, and most importantly, to document what happened so that I would be able to showcase the genuine situation of what Palestinians are facing day by day.

Before I came to Palestine, I thought the situation would be quite perilous. With the fact that I am a tourist, I feared I might be robbed by some random people on the street (As my skin color explicitly distinguishes me from local inhabitants). I even fear that my skin color might make me a target of some sort of extreme racial group, as I do not look Arabic at all, and there aren’t that many Asians traveling to Palestine.

Nevertheless, my experiences in Palestine and the excellence center have proven me utterly wrong. Contrary to my expectations, people here are so lovely that I have been greeted with a smiling face daily by people I do not know. They are so benevolent that they even treated me falafel balls when I said hi to them. In the center, my Arabic teacher, Miss Haya, taught me with patience and kindness even when my Arabic was pretty atrocious (Arabic is very sophisticated). Even though my Arabic pronunciations might not be comprehensible and even embarrassing, she taught me how to pronounce the vocabulary one by one with love and care. As a language teacher, Miss Haya's passion and devotion to her students are why I continue to learn Arabic after trepidations and obstacles. Overall, We are like a family in the center, where we congregate for breakfast, live together, go on field trips together, and spend our time in Palestine together. Even though some of the experiences might be daunting (as it is normal for a human being to be despondent after witnessing and hearing some of the most melancholiac and disturbing stories from people suffering from the atrocities being inflicted by some settlers), I have learnt more about appreciation and also treating people around us with affection and respect as we would never hope something like this would ever occurring upon anyone of us, including our worst enemies.

Everything happens for a reason and thank you for being one of the reasons that motivate me to continue on my goal. Everything wouldn’t have been so great without this center, Alhamdulilah.

Default avatar
Joshua
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Two weeks in Halle: Trains and Cranes

I was very happy with the people I met as well as the instruction I received. My teacher was very energetic and helpful with the teaching. Arabic is a hard language but he made it engaging and interesting. I really enjoyed the program breakfast that we had on the week days. It was a good time to get to speak with people more personally. The weekly football matches were a great opportunity to get out of the school atmosphere and have fun. The public transportation was amazing and very easy to use.

What was your funniest moment?
Playing soccer
Pros
  • Teacher
  • People

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Nicholas Lecchi

A volunteer who went abroad after studying for an English teaching certification for a little over a year. Is slated to do a History Masters' Program in NYC during the fall of 2023.
Nicholas Lecchi

Interview

Why did you choose this program?

I wanted to gain experience tutoring, and I wanted to improve my German (which I have studied on and off for 5-6 years). I ended up selecting the Excellence Center in Halle, furthermore, because I wanted to base myself in a city/region of Germany that I had no experience with. The fact that Halle was in the former GDR, which is an area of academic and historical interest to me, made it a particularly appealing choice.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My program was not done via a university provider but by direct payment to the Center. In return, the Excellence Center's staff provided me with a place to stay for the duration of the program, as well as German lessons, and breakfast every Monday through Thursday. The other payments were down by cash I carried on hand or by card.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I wish I had known to memorize some German phrases related to purchasing food or asking for directions ahead of time. More than once, I found myself not knowing how to phrase pretty basic questions and, in those circumstances where the person I was speaking with didn't know any English, it led to me feeling really lost.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Because the volunteers set their own schedules vis a vis the lessons they teach, there is a lot of variability in the average week, but there are a couple of constants.

Breakfast began every day at 10:00 AM from Mondays to Thursdays.

For once a week for about 90 minutes, sometime between 8:30 AM and 9:30, the center held a communal soccer game.

Classes, be they the language courses that volunteers did in German or Arabic, or the courses that volunteers taught as tutors, almost always lasted 90 minutes.

On occasions when the Center wanted to bid farewell to a volunteer whose time with the program was coming to an end, we would do a communal breakfast or dinner to send them off.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest worries pertained to my ability to actually effectively teach English to lower-level speakers, as I lacked a language in common with any of my students that I felt I could comfortably default to without a ton of written prompts for guidance. I was, as such, very worried that nothing I taught would actually be conveyed sufficiently.

In truth, I don't think I ever fully "overcame" this worry, so much as that I accepted the fact that, given that the students kept coming to my lessons of their own volition, they were getting something out of their classes, and this helped me worry less about making sure that every single facet of a given lesson plan went perfectly.

Do you have any additional tips for our GO community?

-Be sure to have plenty of cash on hand when you travel. Many shops in Halle don't accept credit/debit card.

-The town's park is very nice, and regularly hosts small music festivals and the occasional street market.

-The Marktplatz near the big church also has various good lunch options.

-Halle is close to a variety of very good tourist spots (Leipzig, Erfurt, Weimar, Berlin, et.al) that are easily accessible by train. Be sure to invest in a membership pass with Deutsche Bahn if you can.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Ibrahim Zahda

Job Title
English Teacher
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Many people who come to the Excellence Center with the goal of volunteering to teach English are curious about the teachers.

We thought it would be a good idea to sit down with one of the English teachers at the Excellence Center and ask him a little bit about himself, in order to give those thinking about studying at the Excellence Center a chance to learn a little bit more about the teachers they will encounter and work with in Hebron.

Meet Ibrahim Zahda, who started teaching at the Excellence Center as an English teacher 3 years ago.

What’s your daily routine like?

I split my time between the Excellence Center and a local public school. I’m an English teacher at both locations. Once I finish at the public school, then I head over to the Excellence Center.

How do you like working with Palestinian students?

I really like working with them. These kids have something to tell the world. I want to give them the tools they need to deliver our message to the world. That message is simply that we are here and we believe in nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.

How about foreign volunteers?

They help me a lot as teaching assistants. The help they provide basically falls under several levels. First, they empower the idea of volunteering to the students. Second, they help the students with their pronunciation and expose them to the way English is spoken by native speakers.

The cultural aspect of their presence is also important. Volunteers come from all over the world and bring new ideas and concepts to us. It helps the students learn about the ways other people think about problems and give them new perspectives with which to face their challenges. It’s not just the students, teachers also learn in this way from the volunteers.

What’s it like working with Marwa, Khitam, and the other staff members?

The working relationships at the Excellence Center are really great, everyone is kind and everyone is eager to help each other out. The people I work with feel more like family than coworkers.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

You'll mostly find me playing football and computer games, I’m actually addicted to computer games (laughter).

What do you wish foreign volunteers knew before coming to Hebron?

I think the administration has provided a lot of good information for future and potential volunteers on their website. I would urge them (the volunteers) to learn about the center and its mission.

Most of the volunteers I’ve worked with have had a good idea of that part. Learning about the Palestinian culture beforehand would also be helpful.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for Palestinians trying to learn English?

There is this stereotype that English is an impossible language to learn. That really puts the students at a disadvantage so I try to break that stereotype and tell them that English is just like any other language. It is fun and can be learned.

Another challenge is that public schools in Palestine tend to focus on traditional teaching methods. In fact, newer methods which teach English in a practical way are needed. This is what the center is for, it emphasizes the students' speaking and listening abilities so that they can use English in the real world.