My name is Calum, I’m 21 and have recently graduated from the University of Dundee studying Politics and International Relations, with a sub concentration in the Middle East. Having graduated and not had the opportunity to learn Arabic I was keen to find ways to learn such an important and useful language, not just for employment but also for travelling. I set about looking for programs and courses that would give me a truly immersive experience and this is where I found the Excellence Centre, and I have not looked back since.
I chose the volunteering and learn Arabic option, as I not only wanted to learn the language but also meet people under the occupation and learn first-hand the difficulties of the situation. Having had no experience in teaching before I found my time in the classroom thoroughly joyful. I was eased into being an assistant and look forward to every lesson I had, as the kids were great and so eager to learn.
I had 3 hours a week of Arabic with my teacher Marwa, who made the learning of this daunting and completely new language fun, interactive and worthwhile. She was patient, encouraging and very supportive, everything you will need in a teacher and more. We always went at my pace and anything I didn’t understand was quickly and expertly explained to me. I came away from every lesson feeling more and more confident, and optimistic, that I would one day be fluent. This confidence was evident in all the volunteers at the Excellence Centre, as it was such a productive and enjoyable learning environment to begin with a new language. I was surrounded by fluent speakers and could ask at any time for help or explanations, something which thoroughly helped my learning and comprehension of Arabic.
I have made some amazing memories in Hebron and look forward to going back one day. Its bustling busy, busy and such a friendly city. I was instantly greeted with such politeness and kindness everywhere I want. Everybody was so welcoming and the food I had was delicious- or ‘zaki’! I would recommend for everyone to try Maqluba, as a trip to Palestine is not complete without it! I lived in an apartment with other volunteers and we would regularly talk an relax with our neighbours, the Hijazi’s, who are some of the most kind and welcoming people you will ever meet. They don’t just make you feel like a volunteer but as a friend. Inviting us for dinner, ensuing we were always content and showing us the meaning Palestinian hospitality. To them I say a warm hello from Scotland and a massive thank you!
Hebron is an extremely safe city and I feel safer here than in Scotland. Before I came I was concerned about the security situation, but never experienced anything dangerous, only an extremely welcoming people is a hard situation. A situation I would encourage anyone to witness for themselves the full extent of the occupation.
Living, teaching and learning in Palestinian was a truly amazing and remarkable experience, and I hope to be back leaning and speaking Arabic soon. I could not recommend this program enough, the centre goes out there way to make sure you are comfortable and have the best possible time there.
Shukran for a wonderful time!