The Excellence Center

The Excellence Center


The Excellence Center first opened its doors in Hebron, Palestine in 2011. After achieving great success in Hebron, in 2018 we were very proud to be able to continue our work in Germany as The Excellence Center in Europe.

The Excellence Center provides numerous opportunities for nationals, immigrants, refugees, and internationals to engage in educational, cultural, social, and community development activities in the city of Halle, Germany and the city of Hebron in Palestine.

One of the main goals of the Excellence Center is to bring internationals from every corner of the world to Germany and Palestine in order to learn about the country, its culture, and the German or Arabic language.


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Yes, I recommend this program

With all honesty, and yet genuinely speaking, this experience was the best action I have ever done throughout my life, from my personal perspective, anyone who has that eager of being a better human being, indeed this wouldn't be achieved if you don't propose help to the less fortunate humankind ! Teaching English in the Excellence center to the Syrien refugees was the best option to me to broaden my horizons more about other people's culture, besides this helps me to evaluate my potentialities, hence by the constructive criticism I feel at the end of this fruitful experience ,I have utterly changed to the better !

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The eagerness of refugees in the city of Halle to study English
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Yes, I recommend this program

My time in Halle and with the Excellence Center was a truly unique and enriching experience. I spent five weeks in Halle and those same five weeks studying Arabic at the Center. Prior to studying in Germany, I had five semesters of Arabic instruction as an undergraduate student and no experience whatsoever with German. I had completed a short study abroad program before in Amman, Jordan for a month in 2019, which was my only previous international academic experience with which to build my expectations for Halle. Armed with a little Arabic, no German, and a strong dose of curiosity, I came to the Center in the summer of 2021. My experience was divided across four major facets: academic, linguistic, cultural, and relational. I would like to address them all in turn.
Academically, my program at the Excellence Center was the most rigorous Arabic program I have ever partaken, and it was more than worth it. Fifteen hours per week of one-on-one instruction with a native Arabic speaker was incredibly beneficial for my ability and confidence listening to and understanding the language. Not sharing any language fully with my instructor made understanding some of the more intricate grammar topics difficult. However, having an instructor who could not use English as a crutch forced us both to use much more Arabic. I felt as though I knew just enough Arabic to benefit from having an instructor who spoke essentially in nothing but Arabic. It was particularly difficult for the first week as I got more comfortable and as my instructor learned what I did and did not know. Once we became more experienced communicating, our lessons became much smoother and more effective. In the end, I would not have wanted it any other way. Using English in the classroom would have made it a lesser experience. Also, at the center Rafat created an incredibly welcoming environment that placed an obvious emphasis on student well-being and comfort as the foundation for learning well. I always felt welcome, supported, and appreciated at the Center.
Linguistically, of course, I learned quite a bit of Arabic. Outside of the classroom and out in town, however, I found myself with another challenge. Halle’s history and economic profile have together made English far more rare to find than in other German cities. While I was able to enjoy the city fully while in Halle, I had to be very observant and willing to struggle against the language barrier as I became more comfortable. Though I had not anticipated such a language barrier with local Germans as English can be common in other areas, it all got better with time.
Culturally, I found myself at the crossroads of different worlds. At the Center I found myself surrounded by other American students, my Palestinian/Syrian refugee instructor, Rafat as a Palestinian, a Moroccan student who lives in Spain, and a British language teacher. Of course, all of these worlds were colliding in a surrounding German culture, adding another layer to the mix. It was eye-opening and fascinating to learn about each person’s story, their passions, their struggles, and their aspirations for the future. I have always believed in travel as a medium for personal growth, and my experiences in the Excellence Center only confirmed and strengthened my belief in the value of engaging with people from different parts of the world.
Relationally, I made several great new friends with backgrounds quite different from my own, as I discussed above. The relationships I made highlighted the reality that the only divisions between peoples are those we choose to create. Nationality, language, socioeconomics, religion, and all other reasons for resentment or prejudices are merely manifestations of ignorance and impatience. For example, one of the most remarkable examples of hospitality and kindness I experienced in Halle was from my host. He was of a similar age and had immigrated from Syria. We shared little culturally, including only just enough English to communicate, but he made me feel very welcome as I shared his apartment with him. That experience, just like the rest of my time in Halle, demonstrated that any divisions we create as people ignore our shared basic humanity.
Studying in Halle at the Excellence Center is not for those looking to remain within their comfort zone. The Excellence Center and the surrounding city are those looking to learn, to grow, and to experience the new.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have attempted to learn a small bit of German before arriving in Halle. I only knew English and Arabic when I arrived, and neither of the two are common in Halle. The vast majority of local residents only speak German, which was a unique and exciting challenge but could be quite a headache at times. Becoming familiar with basic German phrases before arriving will make a world of difference!
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Yes, I recommend this program

The Excellence Center was an amazing place for me personally and I had some of the best weeks in my life there. At first, I was nervous and afraid that I was too young to do anything there however as soon as I arrived I realized that all my previous assumptions and worries were false and I fit in very well with all of the staff and other volunteers being very kind to me and even inviting me to hang out and explore the city which I especially enjoyed. I was also given a lot of time to assist teaching in classes and even got a chance to do a class individually, which I am thankful for because I learned a lot from it. My host family was very nice and helpful and assisted me however I needed which was always nice to have and made my time here a lot less stressful. The Arabic classes I took were challenging for me but I enjoyed them and always walked away feeling that I had learned something which was a nice feeling. Covid rules made traveling around a bit more stressful than usual but eventually, I got used to them and it was not that bad in hindsight. I really recommend this program to anyone who wants to experience Arabic culture or wants to learn German or Arabic. Overall it was a fantastic experience and I would love to eventually return to the Excellence Center!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would have stayed longer, two weeks isn't enough time to fully experience the program.
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Yes, I recommend this program

If there is one word that would describe my time at the Excellence Center, it would be Family. From the moment I arrived to the moment I left and even during the organization process I felt like I was part of this bigger family that I didn’t know I had. The Manager Rafat welcomed me with open arms and treated me as a Habibi from the moment we met. Here at the Excellence Center there is such a welcoming feeling because of all the decor but also the people that walk through its doors, and although this was still in the middle of a pandemic, I can only imagine what it would be like when it's filled with people.

I was lucky enough to get to experience not only the school but also the city of Halle which seems to hide many secrets around every turn. My favorite activity was walking through the city and along the Salle and experiencing the wonderful Spring sun which drew out the locals as it did me. My accommodation was also nice as I got to stay with a former student of the Excellence Center which treated me with the utmost kindness, and was even raising kittens which I also got to play and cuddle with.

Overall I can only recommend this experience to anyone who likes to be with people and wants to experience something new. Rafat is one of a few people who wear their Heart on their sleeves and it shows from the way he deals with the volunteers, employees and students to involve them in this great big family. I really wish him and the Excellence Center all the best for the future and look forward to coming back and teaching again. حظا سعيدا في المستقبل

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I initially was terrified of having to teach someone a language as up to this point I had tutored people before in other subjects but never taught a language. Therefore I was scared for the first student as I wasn't too sure if I could meet their demands and help them. However this was not at all the case. I read through the manual the center offered and already had some ideas flowing which I was able to use in my lesson(s).
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Yes, I recommend this program

A fun and relaxed place to teach students and to learn a language. I taught English and took German classes for almost 3 months at the Center and had a great time. Great for your CV and getting experience in the sector. The Excellence Center also provides breakfast every morning and tea and coffee are freely available. Everyone here is pleasant and approachable if you have any questions about anything. And the director will always be there to give you advice and guidance should you ever need it.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Make it fun for the students and be sure to socialize as much as you can!


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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

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!