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The Excellence Center

About

The Excellence Center 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, students and youth in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine.

The ongoing success of the Excellence 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 Excellence Center will continue to develop and create new programs and activities that further this role.

Reviews

Default avatar
Magon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable

My time at the Excellence Center was some of the best time in my life, I had so much fun and I laughed a lot. All the Palestinian teachers and staff are some of the best people I have ever met, they were extremely welcoming, respectful, friendly and kind. I felt more welcomed at the Excellence Center than I have anywhere else in my life. The Palestinian students were also very eager to learn and very excited to meet foreigners and speak English with them.

My Arabic teacher was wonderful, she was very supportive and made our lessons together both fun and educational. The Palestinian teachers were always willing to help me with anything I needed for English classes and also gave me really great advice. Sometimes I joined classes with Palestinian teachers, sometimes I taught classes by myself and sometimes I taught with other international volunteers. I became more confident, comfortable and better at teaching English during my time here, thanks to all the people at the Excellence Center.

The Palestinian people in Hebron were also wonderful and very kind. I felt very safe, as a woman, walking down the street in Hebron alone at night. I felt more safe here than I did anywhere else in the world. Sometimes people on the street would say hello, how are you, welcome, but it was always in a friendly way and I never felt hassled. It's very different to places like Egypt or Jordan. I found Palestinian men to be very respectful towards me, much more so than men in Western countries.

I cannot recommend the Excellence Center enough, whether you want to just study Arabic, Teach English or do another program. The first few days were overwhelming because I was somewhere new and meeting lots of new people, but after that I started to enjoy it so much that I didn't want to leave. I had some of the best times of my life and met some of my favourite people ever. I would do it all again if I could!

Pros
  • Palestinian people are the best
  • Private Arabic lessons
  • Lots of flexibility
Default avatar
Hasoon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My First Week in Palestine

The feelings of nerves, curiosity and excitement were all present the way they had been during my first week of school, at my first job and the first time I moved away from home. Everything was brand new. The streets, the food, the people, I didn't know what to expect and had no idea what my time is going to be like in Khalil. I had done plenty of research on the Excellence Centre website, read a lot of reviews, watched a lot of their videos, and the message of safety was always conveyed, but hearing from someone else and experiencing it yourself are two very different things.

I arrived to Khalil in the late evening. Having asked around a bit and got some help from the locals, I found the Excellence Centre and waited for Osama and Marwa to arrive as it the Centre was already closed and having had no internet I couldn't inform them until I got there. They welcomed me, gave me tea, showed me around the centre and took me to my host family.

I was greeted with the famous Arab hospitality. I was fed well and shown where I was going to stay. It was the middle of February and bitterly cold, especially indoors. I was fortunate to be given my own room and my own bathroom however the cleanliness was definitely not up to standard.

As I had arrived on a Thursday evening I had the next day off as Friday is part of the weekend. Having completed Friday prayers my host family invited me to a barbeque in their garden. It was delicious and we spoke at great length, with all of them having a lot of questions about my background, my reasons for coming to Palestine, what I thought of it so far, and it was great to watch them all together being a family I have grown real affection for.

Saturday was my first day at the centre and it was very active. Students of all ages were going in and out of different classes and I was invited to one of the English classes with students ageing 10 to 15. Soon enough I was asked to take over and I introduced myself, answered a lot of questions and in turn asked a few myself about their daily routines and interests. I was then introduced to my Arabic teacher Doha and we had our first Arabic lesson which was followed by joining another teacher in the centre, Annas, in helping him teach his English class.

I arrived on time for breakfast the second day and enjoyed a spread of hummus, baba gunush, falafel, salad, bread, tea and coffee. I was introduced to the rest of the members of staff of the centre and the visitors who joined us for breakfast on that day. Every day different friends of the centre would join us for breakfast or drop by to say hello and all would make the effort to converse and welcome me.

The second day I sat in on an English class and then got taken to Fawar Camp. The refugee camp I came to work and teach in. The journey took half an hour and Osama took drove myself, Alicia, a Swiss volunteer, and Doha. The camp was drastically different to Hebron city. A dirt bumpy road spit a deteriorating encampment. Shops selling the basics had hoards of men sitting outside of them, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.

We arrived to where the lesson would be taught and were greeted by 30 Fawar camp students. Happy and excited to see us, and eager to learn but struggling with being disciplined and paying attention. Though they were receiving an education, it was clear to see the difference between them and the students of similar ages who would come to the Excellence Centre in the city. Good kids, but severely lacking attention and opportunity. After the class I was shown the rest of the camp and saw the environment thousands were forced to call home.

All the people I interacted with, whether young students or adults, within the Excellence Centre or out on the street, everyone welcomed me to Palestine and Hebron with open arms. People were genuinely happy to see an 'ajnabee' (foreigner) in their city. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to accept money when realising I wasn't a local. I asked one why he, like others before him, insisted on not taking payment and he told me that it was important to the people of Hebron, and Palestine, that when a foreigner leaves they leave with the best possible impression of their country. So they tell their own people about the positivity and spread the message on their rich, hospitable culture.

Over the next few following days I found myself teaching a number of classes, answering a lot of questions about who I was, why I came to Palestine and what I my experience was like so far. My first week was a blend of teaching English classes, receiving Arabic classes, going to Fawar Camp and receiving tours of the city. Being taken to the old city of Hebron, a beautiful historic place, with thousands of years worth of stories and culture embedded in its stone walls.

Everyone in the Excellence Centre ensured I was taken care of and welcomed. Marwa and Osama checked up on me everyday to make sure I did not need anything, as did my host family. When I did ask for something, they made sure I got it straight away. Where I lived lacked cooking equipment and when I told Marwa about it she made a bag full of utensils, plates, pans etc and gave it to me so that I could cook for myself.

My first week was a blur. It was intense, I saw a lot of faces, shook a lot of hands, ate a lot of food and was thrown into the Palestinian culture with support behind me.

Pros
  • Culture
  • Hospitality
  • History
Cons
  • Public Transport
  • Length of Visa
  • Foreigners
Default avatar
Andrey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Experience with Intesive German Course at The Excellence Centre

Hey, my name is Andrey Grant, I am a Software Engineer from Australia, and I found Excellence Centre whilst looking for opportunities to study German intensively in Germany. I really wanted to experience Germany, improve German language as well as just to travel and see the world after the Global Pandemic. Given that I travelled alone, it was not only important for me that there is an excellent language program, but that there is an inclusive culture in which I would feel at home despite not knowing anyone in Germany. Reflecting on my experiences over the last 6 weeks in Halle, I can confidently say that the Excellence Centre has satisfied me with all of the above, and in fact much more.

Learning German: Originally, what attracted me to the Excellence centre was their cost effective Intensive German course, with very flexible timelines. The biggest advantage over mainstream German options was that I could adjust exactly when I wanted to start and finish my course, whilst being affordable. I was also hesitant because at A2 level I wasn't certain if I will be able to learn when my teacher taught in German. However, these worries were extinguished on my first day of German lessons. Muaz, my German teacher, has been nothing but amazing and accomodating towards my learning goals. His ability to convey meaning of German words, sentences and grammar in German is superb. I felt like Muaz was invested in my progress and experience in learning German, employing a variety different technqiuese and exercises across speaking, writing, listening and reading, both free form and from conventional textbooks. Furthermore, he was extremely encouranging in me pushing my boundaries, whilst helping me fix my mistake along the way. And all of this all the while following (mostly) with B1 standard topic choice, which means that if i chose to continue with German further, I have B1 background. In summary, I find that learning German at the centre has only strengthened my resolve to continue learning German in future.

Halle and German Culture: Another reason I chose the Excellence centre was its location in Germany. Large cities like Berlin has a strong reputation for being English speaking hubs, where a tourist need practically no German to live. Halle on the other hand, is a relatively small (whilst still being modern) city, where fewer people are able or have desire to speak English. You can still get around by using English, but in my experience only young people will speak English with you unless absolutely necessary. The downside is that even you're somewhat fluent with Hochdeutsch, local accents can be challenging to understand. However over six week period I found that I can somewhat confidently order foods, shop at the supermarkets, get around through the city etc. Additionally, Halle contains a few things to do, such as museum, and historical locations. There is a lot of gorgeous nature around, and I have enjoyed multitude of walks through the city and surrounding forest. The final mention is that German has an amazing public transport system, which enables you to travel between Halle and other cities such as Berlin, Leipzig, etc which you can explore in your time off. I would have to say that whilst Halle has some nightlife, if you're looking for that kind of entertaintment, Berlin or Leipzig have much more to offer.

Day to day things: In addition to paying for lessons, the price of the course also included the stay at an apparentment for six weeks, which made it an even better offer. Rafat and Radwan have been extremely accomodating in helping me settle and purchase several things that the appartment was missing, getting correct public transport tickets and various other things.

The cultural exchange: I think the best way to describe my time at the centre is as Cultural Exchange with German language learning course. I come from Melbourne, Australia, a city known for its multicultural atmosphere, but during my time at the centre I have met an even greater breadth of people. It really serves as a place of multitudes of people coming together: Volunteers,students and teachers from Australia, Palestine, America, Egypt, England, Syria, Morocco, Canada, Mexico and others, coming together to learning and teach various languages as well to share their culture around. I have personally attended 4 Iftars (my best so far), and have eaten more Arabic food than was necessary. In general, everyone at the centre was more than hospitable, and made my stay with the centre feel like being at home

Pros
  • Extremely welcoming enviroment where you are encouraged to succeed
  • Personalised learning for your goals
  • Freedom to do what you want outside of lesson hours
Cons
  • I would say its not fully suitable for complete German beginners, have A2 or higher if you want to get the most out of it
Default avatar
Garrett
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

3 Months with Incredible People at the Excellence Center!

During my time at the Excellence Center, I was able to meet incredible people with unbelievable stories in Halle while travelling all over Europe in my free time. Spending three months at the Center allowed me to get comfortable with my host family in Halle and gave me the chance to meet many incredible international volunteers. I would wholeheartedly recommend the program to anyone who values travel and cultural exchange as I struggle to imagine anywhere else where you could meet so many people from all over the world.

The Center itself is never empty, with students, volunteers and teachers moving in and out and making conversation. The day begins with breakfast where volunteers can prepare and chat before classes begin. The rest of the day is spent teaching or helping around the center; however, schedules are incredibly flexible and largely at the discretion of individual volunteers. I received German lessons every week and had between three and five classes that I taught during the week. Each student at the center is looking for something different so it was important for me to be attentive to what they were asking of me instead of what I wanted to be teaching. I am glad that I spent several months in Halle because initially I struggled to find a good balance for all my lessons but after a few weeks with each student I was much more comfortable and really felt like what I was doing was productive and helpful.

While the Center itself is in a great location, its biggest strength is by far the people working there, from the Host families to the students themselves. The community in Halle is made up of some of the most diligent and kind people I have ever met, and despite my lack of knowledge of both Arabic and German, I was still comfortable around everyone, and they were incredibly welcoming. My host family in particular were incredibly helpful and accommodating, always offering to help with my travel plans or spending the weekends with me going into town or on hikes. Beyond the local community, the center attracts the most incredible people from all over the world. In my three months I saw more than ten volunteers come and go, all of whom had interesting stories and incredible characters. The focus of the Center is on community service and thus attracts kindhearted people, but it was still shocking every time to meet a new person from a different part of the world so devoted to helping a community that they had not been a part of.

One of my personal goals while I was in Germany was to travel as much as possible. Halle is very centrally located and the railroads in Germany allowed me to visit cities all over the continent. After I took a few weeks to get settled and explore Halle, I was able to spend almost every weekend abroad. The volunteer program provides a three-day weekend and with overnight trains and busses, I was able to spend the better part of three days in a new city every weekend. Halle is only a few hours from Berlin, Dresden, and Munich, all of which have massive train stations that can take you to any part of the continent. Before coming to Germany, I had spent very little time travelling in Europe and this program turned out to be the perfect decision, allowing me to see as much as possible.

Deciding when to begin your program in Halle is very important. I did not have a proper understanding of the German winter and began my program in February, expecting to have mostly spring weather by the middle of March. In reality it was still winter up until mid-April this year so if I were to go back, I would have started my program a bit later in the year. I was able to experience easter in Germany and Austria however, as I spent the holiday with my host family and the easter markets in Halle and Vienna were filled with food and souvenirs. If possible it would also be helpful to start when you know others will be at the center. There are many more volunteers in the Summer and it is a great time to go, but when I arrived I was the only volunteer for the first week and it made it a bit harder to get accustomed to the new environment.

Ultimately my most valuable memories from the center are all the incredible people that I met and the stories that I heard. Hearing about the journeys of refugees is a sobering experience but one that I think is important for people like me, who have little exposure to it in America, to have. The refugee community in Halle continues to look forward though and is made up of some of the happiest and most positive people I have ever met. People like my teacher Muaz, the head of the Center Rafat, and volunteers like Salma Lamsaouri make the Excellence Center in Halle one of the most incredible places I have ever been.

Pros
  • Valuable Work
  • Easy to travel on weekends
  • Welcoming Community
Cons
  • Loose schedule
  • Lack of Activities in and around Halle
  • Sometimes very few other volunteers
Default avatar
salma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My time in Halle(Saale)

It is absolutely daunting to find the precise words to describe my gratitude to the excellence centre, personally speaking my internship at the Excellence centre has impacted me so deeply, ether from what concerns my academic or personal level, When I came during my first time on July 2021:

I didn’t expect that my experience will influence my entire life, I come to teach English and learn German, it sounds as a very basic and normal task that a normal volunteer will do towards refugees, but the actual fact is that I didn’t plan that I will be surprised by the stuff at the Excellence centre,they were sublime, helpful and joyful, sincerely this centre has an insurmountable feeling of magnitude, everyone who comes here for the very first time wants to repeat this marvellous experience again,and yet this is what happened to me,in addition to the stuff of the Excellence centre,you meet people from different culture and indeed you expand your horizons more and more, as an international and global studies master’s student I was looking for my area of interest of perhaps I was looking for myself the genuine Salma where I could shine and give the best I can, hence I’m over the moon my last experience on July 2021 drove me to think deeply and wisely about my final thesis project, thus I tried to shed light on the issue of integration of the female women in Halle(Saale), since then my knowledge’s journey has started, I come again to centre on March 2022,where I have started my internship for roughly two months, these months were absolutely magical, each day prevails lots and lots of feelings, feeling of gratitude, hope and aspiration:

The centre has helped me to do a great deal of interviews with Syrian female refugees women in Halle, and this has broaden my knowledge to know more about their struggle and yet this will indeed help me to write a proficient master thesis, last but not least, the only thing that I can add is that I have genuinely no words to describe my gratitude and thanks to this centre, a great acquaintance from the part of the centre is Jihan,she is as well a great lady who has helped me through the centre to know and do more interviews with women:

Rafat,Radwan are the best administration members that any volunteer like myself aim to be supervised by, thank you to all the volunteers who were absolutely amazing ,helpful and terribly down to earth ,finally if there is someone who is intrigued about shaping the community coherence, this is your place..

Pros
  • Shaping the community services
  • Improving the culture of sharing
  • The people qt the center
Cons
  • Nothing; it was perfect

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

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

Why did you choose this program?

I previously visited the Excellence Center in Hebron last year to do Intensive Arabic and I really enjoyed the two weeks I had; however, I wished I was staying longer, as two weeks went to fast. This year I was for one month and, in the future, I hope to stay for longer. I have a desire to become fluent in Arabic and coming to the Excellence Center was a great opportunity for me to improve my Arabic, even though that was not the main focus of the visit. The main focus was to conduct research for my dissertation in BSc Anthropology and, with the help from the Excellence Center, this became easier for me to complete.

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

I had in advance of this program created a questionnaire and interview questions and done some readings to prepare for the fieldwork. When I arrived at the Excellence Center, I had a short meeting with some staff at the Excellence Center about what I needed for my research and, from that point, the Center organised all the interviewees I conducted and all the questionnaires I collected. The only thing I needed to do was to tell them what I needed, and then they organised the rest. This made the research I conducted very easy and possible to complete within the limited time I had.

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

Be prepared for Arab time. You might have heard about the Arab time before, but if you haven't, now you will. It basically means that times works a bit differently; 9 might mean 9.30, the afternoon might be 12.00 or 14.00, and 5 minutes might be 30 minutes. When deciding to come to this Center, be prepared and accept that time runs differently, and embrace it!

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

At 9.30 am, it is Palestinian traditional breakfast at the Center together with other volunteers and staff at the Center. After that, I usually talked to the Excellence Center staff about my day.

As I did research, some days the Excellence Center staff had fixed an interview or a focus group that could fill in my questionnaire. Other days I was working on transcribing interviews. I also had two 1.5 hour lecture of Arabic each week, so when I didn't work on my research, I practised my Arabic.

At around 5 pm, I would go back home and use the rest of the day with my host family and relax. As the main focus was my own research, the weeks were very flexible, and I mostly shaped the weeks myself.

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

Last year was a bit more terrifying than it was this year. Traveling alone and living in a host family with a completely different culture than my own was a bit scary, as I did not know what to expect. However, the friendliness of the host family made this fear disappear and they actually made my stay even better as I had a family to come back to after a long day at the Center.

Staff Interviews

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

Mohammed S. Tamimi (“Abu Mohanned”)

Job Title
General Manager
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The Excellence Center has been offering English language training to local residents of Hebron, as well as Arabic training and volunteer opportunities to foreigners, for over six years.

One of the men who made our mission possible is Mohammed Tamimi, affectionately called by his friends, “Abu Mohanned.” Abu Mohanned founded the center all those years ago and he is still a fixture at the center’s offices. Volunteers and students visiting us from abroad will have close contact with Abu, whether chatting with them over coffee in the evenings, or traveling with him on tours of the Dead Sea or Jerusalem.

We thought we would introduce Abu Mohanned to any future volunteers reading, to give them a better idea of the people they will be working with.

What made you decide to found the Excellence Center?

I founded the center back in April of 2011. There was a need for students in Hebron to better their English language skills.

What makes English an important language to learn for people in Hebron?

All sorts of reasons. Many people in Hebron travel, or want to travel, overseas. There are business people, NGO workers, and tourists from around the world coming to Hebron as well. Being able to communicate with them is an important skill to learn.

How do you like working with foreign volunteers?

The volunteers we host from all over the world are very good people. As are the students who come to study Arabic. I’ve really enjoyed working with and getting to know them.

How is the Excellence Center different now than it was five years ago?

We have made a lot of improvements since I founded the center five years ago. In the beginning, we didn’t have many students, and certainly not many foreign volunteers. Every year, however, we attract more local students and more people from abroad.

We’ve opened up a second center in Hebron to host more programs. We’ve begun offering more workshops, an English Club, and have even begun offering local government staff English language training. Things keep getting better and better!

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

Oh, I love traveling around Palestine and visiting the different cities. Frequently I’ll go to weddings and visit relatives around the country. That’s one of my jobs as well, taking the volunteers on tours of Palestine!

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

Well there are practical things, like the places they want to visit, and how to find their way from Tel Aviv to Hebron. Besides that, however, we really like it when people visiting Hebron are aware of and familiar with the Palestinian culture. One of my goals is to raise awareness of the Palestinian culture and all that Palestine has to offer, so that volunteers will tell their friends to visit our country when they return home.

One last thing that Abu Mohanned insisted we include is that he is eager to welcome more volunteers to the Excellence Center!