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Arabic Language Study

Rachel Roberts
Mills College
Grant Year: 
Rachel Roberts

Thanks to a grant from the Abbasi program, I was able to do the Middlebury Arabic immersion program at Mills College over the summer of 2016. I had taken Arabic for two years at Stanford prior to the program. Because of the “language pledge,” I functioned entirely in Arabic for two months and learned a year’s worth of college language study in a summer.

At the beginning of the Middlebury program, I could have only the most basic conversations in Arabic. Now I am in the advanced conversation class at Stanford, and I hope to take Arabic literature courses in future quarters. My skillset from Middlebury empowers me to discuss politics and religion, and to understand Arabic newspapers and media. I now have the linguistic confidence to apply for internships in the Middle East, where I hope to learn more about the politics of the region and continue to improve my Arabic.

I am also grateful for the cultural experiences the Middlebury program afforded me. Classes coincided with Ramadan, and I celebrated Eid with the faculty and Muslim students. I also attended lectures and watched films on Islam and politics in the Middle East every week. This knowledge about Islam has been quite beneficial, since I am working as Professor Abbas Milani’s research assistant this quarter, helping him finish a book about Islam. Before Middlebury, I did not have the knowledge about Islam to be able to do the research I am currently doing.

The most rewarding cultural experience I had at Middlebury was being part of a club on current events in the Arab world, led by a team of faculty members from different Arab countries. It was fascinating to discuss the Arab Spring (in Arabic!) with people who had actually experienced it, and it was a perspective I never would have gotten in a class at Stanford. I am excited to learn more about democracy and the Arab world in my coursework here at Stanford over the next two years.

I am so grateful for the Abbasi program for helping to fund my summer at the Middlebury Arabic immersion program. The increased language proficiency and cultural experiences from the program will continue to shape my academic and professional trajectory for years to come.