My name is Alex and I’m from Melbourne, Australia. After completing my Communications Degree from RMIT University, I came to Palestine to do the Teaching English and Study Arabic course at the Excellence Center.
I expected to do a heap of teaching, while squeezing in some Arabic here and there, but I have completed my time here learning significantly more Arabic than I had hoped. The Centre is a great place to work and learn, the teachers and volunteers here are like a family. My teacher, Marwa has been so amazing and helpful, she has made learning Arabic so enjoyable and has motivated me to study hard (something I am notoriously bad at). In my spare time here, I study, chat to teachers and volunteers, and most importantly; undertake informal cooking lessons with Khitam, who has taught me how to cook delicious Palestinian dishes while also improving my Arabic food vocabulary.
Everyone at the Center is warm, friendly, helpful and caring. The teachers are so much fun, the other volunteers are awesome and have become great friends of mine, and the students are motivated and eager to learn. Coming here everyday is fun, walking in for breakfast and chatting to everyone is a family affair, we laugh a lot, tell stories and plan trips around Palestine and Hebron. Manager Abou Mohannad is so helpful and funny, always chatty and friendly with us, he makes settling in and seeing the city so easy for us.
While here I have explored Hebron and the rest of Palestine, taking trips to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, Dheisheh, Doura and Khan al-Ahmar. Being such a small country, it is very easy and cheap to travel around on days off, accomodation is usually cheap as well.
The apartment for the volunteers is in the bustling area of Bab al-Zawiye, where our neighbour Sheikh Abed and the whole Hijazi family make us feel so welcome. I thought that being in the apartment meant we would miss out on speaking Arabic all the time, but as we spend so much time with our neighbours, we speak Arabic all the time and they teach us new phrases and vocab constantly.
The other volunteers and I would often joke at the fact that so many people back home told us to ‘be careful’ here, ‘you know it’s such a dangerous place’ etc. etc. etc. But I honestly don’t think I have ever felt safer anywhere, not once have I ever felt threatened by anyone, or felt worried about where I was. You can walk the streets at any time and feel safe, it’s easy to forget about the occupation here, as the people are all so friendly and welcoming, I usually spend most of the day smiling.
My favourite thing about Palestine is definitely the people, I have made great friends from Hebron and Dheisheh, who I hope to know for the rest of my life. Even strangers make your day better, as they want to help you and make sure you have the best time possible.
I also inadvertently became a celebrity here via appearing in a video with singer Ayman al-Sabawi. In my last month here, I have been constantly recognised on the streets, taking photos with people and and telling them about the gig. Usually people just yell out ‘Australia!!’ and smile, it has been one of the oddest and funniest experiences of my life.
All in all, I cannot recommend this program enough. I didn’t expect to feel so comfortable here, I have settled in and now I have to leave!!! I am desperate to come back here and continue my study, and I hope to keep in touch with everyone I have met here. Hebron has become my second home, and I hope to continue coming back here in my life. I have fallen in love with Palestine and it has made me want to learn as much Arabic as possible.
Thank you to everyone at The Excellence Center, I’ve had the time of my life here.