The Excellence Center

Program Reviews

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Rahel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Women's Rights Program

I'm a German social worker in her thirties and I spent 3 months at the Excellence Center in Hebron as a volunteer in the Women's Rights program.

For the majority of my stay I was the only one in this program, so I shared most of the activities with the volunteers from the Human Rights Program. Therefore, I not only met with specialised organisations and activistis for women's rights and empowerment of women, but also got a broad overview of the human rights situation in general thorugh meeting human rights acivists and advocates in general.

In the beginning the program manager and me planned for me to first meet a variety of representatives of the Hebronite society and have visits to different parts of the city and the nearby villages and rural areas, so as to learn about the problems and needs of women and get a better unterstanding of the societies here in general. We also planned for me to join workshops visits of women's rights organisations and subsequently offer workshops on my own, based on the women's needs and priorities.
Unfortunately it turned out to be very complicated to join other organisations in their activities, but based on the meetings and conversations I joined at the center (English club, French class, visits to the refugee camp, my Arabic lessons and informal converstations with Palestinians in general) I felt comfortable enough to offer workshops for girls and women, starting around the halfway point of my stay.

In the workshops we focused on deepening the understanding about women's rights by exchanging ideas and experineces, as well as empowerment to advocate for what they believe in and the change they want to see in their society.
I learned a lot from the women and girls and their perspectives on their rights, equality, feminism and protection from violence. I hope that I could give back a little by providing these platforms for discussing and analysing these issues and listening and respecting their viewpoints.

Part of the volunteers program were also 3 hours of Arabic lessons per week. I had some experience prior to this stay with the Egyptian and the Libanese dialect, so my goal was to learn more about the Palestinian dialect.
The lessons were mostly one-on-one, only in the last three weeks I shared the lessons with someone on a similar level due to big number of internationals coming for the summer to the center. I enjoyed the lessons throughout my whole stay because my teacher listened to what I wanted to focus on (speaking and listening). The lessons helped me a lot to improve my speaking skills in everyday situations as well as providing me with the specific vocabulary taylored to the women's rights program. After three months I feel comfortable to express my needs and navigate everyday situations as well as more complex converstaions sorrunding women's rights issues.

When I arrived at the center the groups' size was roughly a third of what it was in the last month, so I got the chance of getting to know the center's staff really well and spend a lot of time with them in and outside the center. I also formed friendships with the international students, by hanging out together in cafés and going on weekend trips together in the Westbank. The more international people came to the center and local students joined the classes, the more chaotic became the organisation of the center's activities. Personally I appreciated the flexibility in the planning and organisation, because it allowed them to adapt to my personal situation and energy level (I had to go home for a month in between and I got sick while being here), but it can be frustrating for people who want to have a steady schedule and know exactly what to expect from their program.
I advice anyone who comes to the center to clearly and respectfully communicate your needs and expectations as well as your boundaries to the center's staff, in my experience they will do everything in their power to meet your expectations and respect your boundaries.

Like most women in the program I got the chance to live with a host family and I couldn't have been happier with the placement. They welcomed me very openly in their lives and I really appreciated how they accepted me as a new family member while at the same time respecting my need for independance. I loved spending time with them, laughing and joking with them as well as having important discussions about politics and social issues, and above all I enjoyed the amazing food they cooked!

Overall the first thing that comes to my mind when reflecting on my stay here is how incredibly kind and welcoming the Palestinian society is and the amazing connections I got to form here in a relatively short period of time. I also really enjoyed the homecooked food and the beautiful nature, but in the end it is the people I got to meet here in the center, during our visits and trips and of course my host family, that made my stay here one of the most satisfying and rewarding experience of my life. As I am about to leave I'm already planning my return here because there is much more to do here than I got the chance to in these past months.

Before coming here for the first time I was lucky enough to have friends who have been to Palestine before and could tell me about their exeriences. They could therefore explain to me that the situation is really safe here for foreigners and that I don't need to worry about my safety if I just listen to the locals on what is safe and what isn't.
Overall I feel sad and frustrated about the current situation under the Israeli occupation. The many human rights violations which occur almost daily, and I almost never here about back home in Germany, were sometimes unbearably painful to observe, but I never felt worried for my own safety.

While the occupation is the strict framework of the life here in Hebron, there is so much more here to learn, to explore and to enjoy, so people should not be deterred to come here because of the occupation. The Palestinians will make the trouble of coming here worth it, that I can promise!

Pros
  • Living with Palestinians
  • Sharing ideas and experience about human rights
  • the food
Cons
  • chaotic system
  • the human rights violations by the occupation
  • difficult to stay longer than 3 months
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Ashlyn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Human Rights Program in Palestine

I'm very happy with my decision to come to the Excellence Center. I felt so welcomed in the home of my host family and it was the perfect place for me to push myself to learn more Arabic. The people I met at the center were all really interesting people from all sorts of backgrounds. Some days at the center were filled with tours and presentations and other days were more laid back. During my two weeks I visited the Old City twice, the studios of Palestinian artists, a refugee camp, and many homes of various Palestinians and had Arabic lessons with various incredible teachers. I had one presentation on human rights specifically and the rest of the activities and presentations did somewhat relate but I do wish my program more heavily focused on human rights specifically. Although I wasn't here for very long I learned a lot about Palestinian culture and what the occupation entails. I would definitely recommend the Excellence Center and I hope to return in the future!

Pros
  • Learn about the situation in Palestine and Hebron specifically
  • Meet amazing people
  • Practice Arabic
Cons
  • Lack of communication before arrival
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erikalynn
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Lucky to be in Halle

The only downside of my time in Halle at the Excellence Center was that I only stayed one week! Moaz was a fantastic teacher who brought kindness and energy to all of his Arabic lessons. Sharing breakfast with the other students and dinner with my host mother were highlights. I will never forget how hard my host mother and I laughed in the evenings while she attempted to teach me to say the speech sounds of Arabic! Rafat makes everyone feel very welcome and included. I would recommend this program to young and old alike.

Pros
  • Getting to know a Syrian host family
  • Learning Arabic
  • Meeting people interested in language learning and culture
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Erik
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An illuminating ECE Experience!

I made many unforgettable memories at the Excellence Center in Halle. Although I thoroughly enjoyed both learning German and teaching English, the real treasure was the friends that I made and the new experiences I had. The Excellence Center is a place to enrich oneself both academically and socially.

Muaz was an amazing German teacher. Each lesson with him was full of energy and insights into the German language. Whenever someone didn’t understand something, he would take the time to explain things while also staying in German. The class was small, so every student got lots of attention. Muaz also organized a super fun trip to Berlin for the entire center. We went to see lots of popular sights, like the Berlin TV tower and the Brandenburg Gate, but being with friends was probably the most fun.

I taught English both solo and with a partner, both in-person and online. While the online lessons definitely posed challenges, watching a student get excited to use English made me happy no matter what. I would usually split lessons into two sections: one a bit more technical and the other doing something more gamelike. As long as I kept my student smiling and using English, however, the lesson was on track! Knowing a bit of German as well as a tiny bit of Arabic also helped in the lessons.

During your time at the Excellence Center, you’ll also attend some presentations and probably give some yourself! The presentations were great opportunities not only to learn more about fellow volunteers, but also to give opinions about teaching and learning language.

Breakfast is made daily at the center, often incorporating scrambled eggs, hummus and pita, or both! For lunch however, you’ll be exploring Halle, a wonderful, small city. There are some great lunch places near the center, and if you're willing to take the short walk to Marktplatz, there are even more delicious (and cheap) options. I always felt very safe in Halle, and because the public transportation is great, exploring the city with friends is made even easier.

There's a great sense of camaraderie at the Excellence Center with both students and teachers supporting each other, and this makes making new friends super easy. Being on the younger side, the Excellence Center gave me independence like I really haven’t experienced before, and I won’t forget the experiences that resulted from that. The center also holds weekly football matches which are always enjoyable; as a member of the winning team, you can even earn prizes like a box of chocolates!

My host family was incredibly nice. They took me to pick strawberries in their garden, and afterwards, we either ate them with ice cream or turned them into scrumptious, fresh jam! I was also accompanied on a lovely bike ride around town where they showed me the beautiful fields in the area. On particularly hot days, we would also go to a nearby lake to cool off and have an evening picnic. They also had two endearing cats which could make disturbingly human noises! At the end of my stay, they brought me to a dance performance in Halle which I found compelling. I always felt very welcome in their home and am super lucky to have met such kind people.

I am so glad I came to the Excellence Center!

Pros
  • I learned lots of German
  • I made lots of new friends
  • I had lots of new experiences
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Vicky
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Intensive Arabic Program

My name is Vicky and I am Costa Rican-American. I studied International Studies at American University in Washington, DC, and I specialized in environmental sustainability and peace and conflict resolution. I also studied Arabic for three years in college, but I wanted to come to the Excellence Center to practice the language more and learn the Palestinian dialect in the Intensive Arabic Program. I spent a month at the Excellence Center. I chose to come to Palestine because I wanted to support the Palestinian people and their freedom from occupation and I love Palestinian culture, like Elia Suleiman’s films, writing from Mahmoud Darwish and Ghassan Kanafani, and dabke. I travelled to Palestine four years ago but I only spent two weeks in Nablus and Jerusalem, and I wanted to return to make deeper connections with the people and the country.

At the Excellence Center, I took three hours of Arabic lessons five days a week. Although I had previously studied Modern Standard Arabic for three years in university, I realized that I did not have much practice speaking in the dialect. After a month of practice with my teacher every day, I feel much more confident in my ability to hold conversations with people on a variety of topics.

The staff, teachers, and volunteers at the Center foster a welcoming environment, especially as we gather together for breakfast, have coffee together throughout the day, and often have conversations about complex topics outside of class. Sometimes after my lessons, I joined the other students and volunteers on tours to the Old City, the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Hirbawi Kufiya factory, Hebron University, and the National Association of Human Rights Defenders. Outside of the Center, I travelled with a group of volunteers to Nablus, where we stayed in a cultural center at Balata refugee camp. I also travelled with some volunteers to Ramallah one weekend, and we visited the Yasser Arafat Museum.

I enjoyed living with my host family, speaking Arabic with them, helping the children practice English, and trying traditional foods like warak diwali and molokhia with rice. We celebrated family members' birthdays together. The family home has a beautiful garden, and sometimes I would go home in the afternoon to study Arabic in the garden, but sometimes all of the children would come to our section of the house and it could be hard to focus on work. But most of all, the family is very sweet and generous. Even though I will be in Ramallah next month, my host mom invited me to return in two weeks for Eid al-Adha, and I am looking forward to spending this special holiday with them.

When I first came to Palestine four years ago, my first impression was that people are so kind and willing to help you even if they hardly know you. Now, my impression is the same, and this is what I liked most about Palestine and why I wanted to return. There have been several times where I speak to someone I hardly know, and they invite me to their homes for coffee or dinner. I feel very safe in Palestine, maybe even safer than I do in the United States or at home in San José, Costa Rica.

One of my favorite memories about Palestine occurred a few days ago, when I was walking alone through the Old City and I saw an old woman sitting in front of her shop where she sold traditional tatreez embroidery. By coincidence, I realized I had met her three years ago in Washington, DC when I worked at a magazine on Middle East affairs, and she had been invited to sell her products there in DC. She invited me to drink tea, and we began to speak in Arabic about the occupation, the situation in the Old City, and how her organization supports women in the villages near Hebron, giving them an opportunity to sell their beautiful, handmade products. It was a memorable experience. I could understand the conversation in Arabic, despite the complicated topics, and I learned so much from her.

In spite of violent occupation, the Palestinian culture and identity is alive and beating, and I have an immense respect for everyone in Hebron and Palestine. I recommend the Excellence Center, especially to those who want to join the Intensive Arabic Program. Thank you!

Pros
  • Language instruction
  • Friends - local and foreign
  • Palestinian hospiality
Cons
  • Need money to sustain your program
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Johanna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Women's Rights Program

My name is Johanna, I am 31 years old, and I was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. I came to Palestine and the Excellence Center to study Arabic and to participate in the Women’s Rights Program for a duration of two weeks. It only took me a few days before I started to really feel at home at the Excellence Center. I also felt very welcome and comfortable with my host family right away, and it was perfect that I could be placed with a family that did not speak any English, since this gave me all the more opportunity to practice my Arabic. Staying with a host family has been among my most valuable and pleasant experiences here.

About half way through my volunteering program I decided to sign up for intensive Arabic lessons, instead of only taking three hours of lessons per week, since I wanted to focus more on the language. I have been extremely content with my teacher, Mahmood, both with his choice of material and his methods of teaching. He has tailored the lessons to my needs so that I have got the most possible out of them, while I have also enjoyed our time together in the classroom immensely, laughing and learning at the same time.

Overall, I have only positive things to say about the people at the Excellence Center, both the staff and the volunteers. There is a large diversity of backgrounds and life experience among the volunteers, but the one thing everyone at the center seems to have in common, staff as well as volunteers, is their passion for learning and growing. Sometimes this environment that is so full of life and inspiration is in stark contrast to the stories we have heard during visits to local organizations, from people we have met here, and from the local teachers at the center. We have met with activists who document crimes committed by Israeli soldiers, people who run an organization that gives women in the areas most affected by the occupation a chance to learn how to build a business model and to fund their projects, and we have visited the Fawwar camp on the outskirts of Hebron, learning about living conditions in the camp and talking to a family that lives there.

Since I came here only for two weeks, and the weekends are the only time to travel outside of Hebron, I have not had the opportunity to visit a lot of places in the West Bank. I went to Ramallah twice and also did a quick visit to Nablus, but it was on a Saturday, so there was a lot of traffic and I needed to catch the last minibus back to Hebron, which did not leave me with a lot of time to explore the city. However, what I always appreciate the most when staying in other countries is spending time with locals, which I have had many opportunities to do here. Last time in Ramallah, I met someone who works as a paramedic for the Red Cross, and he told me a story of when he had an Israeli soldier point a gun to his head because he refused to hand over the keys to the ambulance he was driving. He showed me a photo that someone took of the incident.

I cannot choose one favorite experience from my stay in Palestine, or one favorite thing about this country. I can list some concrete things that I love: the people, the landscape, the food. Of course, the atmosphere at the Excellence Center and the sense of belonging and connection that I have had with the staff and the volunteers are an important reason why I have loved it here. But in the end, the reason I need to come back is simply in how I feel, which I also cannot quite describe. There are also still a lot of places and things to see and many people left to meet. If I did not have to go back to Sweden to work, I would without a doubt have extended my stay.

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Christopher
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Internship in Palestine

Hi, I'm Chris. This Summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the Internship in Palestine program at the Excellence Center. My experience at EC was truly impactful and thought-provoking. From participating in intensive Arabic classes, human rights presentations, and teaching English, I was able to learn a great deal about the occupation and the dangers that Palestinians face in their own country each day. I felt safe the whole time I was here and I was also able to travel to other destinations in the West Bank without my safety being of any concern. I really enjoyed my time in Hebron and the experiences I had at the Excellence Center, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Pros
  • Welcoming staff
  • Inclusion
  • Opportunities to Travel
Cons
  • Housing
  • Lack of clarity
  • Living accommodations are an afterthought
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Aftab
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Fantastic Experience (May/June 2022)

I am a doctor in England. I have been practicing for 20 years.
I volunteered to teach English to the immigrant and refugee population at The Excellence Center in Halle. This also gave me an opportunity to further develop my Levantine Arabic (as my intention is to work in refugee camps in the future).
It was a wonderful experience to meet and work with a bunch of kind and friendly people. The are all extremely welcoming and have created a family atmosphere at The Center, and my three weeks felt too short a time to spend at this beautiful place.
I learned a lot of spoken Arabic in formal lessons, but was also able to constantly practice my Arabic with anyone and everyone I met! (Some volunteers opted for German lessons).
It was amazing to speak to all the people there (refugees and volunteers) and hear about their experiences. Speaking and interacting with refugees, and hearing each individual's harrowing journey is an invaluable experience I would recommend to everyone. It was a mind-opening three weeks at the Center.
I made some life long friends, and I loved everyone so much that I plan to go back there.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYXBoWSci_I&ab_channel=RedBlueLife

Pros
  • Learn new things, interact with diverse range of people
  • Contribute and learn a language in exchange
  • Experience different cultures and open your mind and gain wisdom
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Luna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience

I Had sooo much fun during my time here and I got to meet so many nice people. It was super easy to make friends and travel to different cities during the weekend since train station is very close. In addition to that there was so many different things to do in halle even though it’s a small city but it never really felt boring and that is one of the reasons why my experience was good. Give it a try the experience overall was great. I definitely recommend it and I would love to go back and spend more time with everyone.

Pros
  • Making friends
  • Getting to teach students
  • Traveling to different cities on the weekend
Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Luna,

Thank you so much for leaving us an excellent review. We're thrilled you loved your Teaching English and Studying German at the Excellence Center in Halle, Germany. We'll be sure to pass along your kind words.

Thanks for your support and great efforts during the three weeks. We wish you all the best and hope to meet you in the future in Germany

With kind regards,
The Excellence Center team

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Garrett
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Garrett Sutherland EC

My name is Garrett and I am from Texas in the United States. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in
Palestine and at the EC. I engaged in numerous activities relating to learning and teaching
languages, visiting various locations in Palestine, and engaging with Palestinian families and
individuals.
I found my Arabic lessons at the EC to be very useful, and learned a great deal while I was in
Palestine. It is very useful to learn vocabulary at the excellence center, then go out in the streets
to practice and use the words that I learned. There is no limit to how much you can learn during
your stay. The center and Al Khalil are an excellent environment to learn and practice.
The excellence center has a very welcoming environment. You will realize immediately that
everyone at the center is very kind and helpful. They will be very happy to help you with any
questions or challenges you face.
I participated in visits and field trips almost every day that I was with the Excellence Center.
They bring volunteers to government buildings, local organizations, and beautiful natural sites.
While I was in Palestine, I visited almost all of the major cities, but one month is not enough to
see all of Palestine. I was able to visit Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, and Al-Quds. While I was
there, I was able to visit the beautiful natural sites there, and spend time in the city centers and
old cities/markets.
Living in Hebron was a seamless experience. I found the people to be very hospitable and
welcoming, and at no point did I get the feeling that the city was unsafe in any way.
I truly enjoyed my time in Palestine and it’s hard to outline my favorite thing about the country. I
thoroughly enjoyed the food, nature, and weather, but sweeter than all of these things was the
people. Everywhere I went, I found people welcoming me, curious to speak with me and help
me with whatever I needed. My time here has created a strong and lasting impression of the
country and people that will stay with me long after I return to the US.
Among my favorite experiences here was when I went up into the mountains in Halhul and ate
Sajiyya and smoked Argila while watching the sunset from atop a high vantage point.
My overall experience in the Excellence Center and Palestine at large was very pleasant, and I
genuinely hope to return one day soon. I’m thankful for the entrance into Palestinian society and
way of life that the Excellence Center provided me.

Pros
  • Welcoming staff
  • Opportunity to explore Palestine
  • Food and culture
Cons
  • Schedule may be hectic at times
Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Garrett,

Thank you so much for leaving us an excellent review. We're thrilled you loved your internship teaching English at the Excellence Center. We'll be sure to pass along your kind words.

Thanks for your support and great efforts during the six weeks. We wish you all the best and hope to meet you in the future

With kind regards,
The Excellence Center team