8 Culture and Advice

Cultural Discussion and Advice From A Fellow Student

Cultural Awareness

In most Arab cultures, women do not shake the hands of men who are not within their families. That is unless the woman extends her hand first, then you may shake her hand. Otherwise, the respectful gesture to use when meeting someone new is simply putting your hand over your heart. This gesture can also be used when you don’t feel comfortable shaking hands with someone.

Arabic Doesn’t Fit My Major: Advice on How to Pursue Arabic Through Non-Language Based Majors

Whether you take Arabic as a minor, a major, or even just to fulfill a language requirement, I’m here to tell you about the amazing things you can do with Arabic and how it can fit into many different majors:

  1. Stem fields
    • I know many students who have taken Arabic in the past, but don’t feel like they can continue it because it doesn’t tie into their nursing, engineering, or biology degree. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Langues allow us to communicate and work with people from around the world, in this sense knowing a second language could open up many unique doors. You could do research abroad, go to school abroad, get an internship abroad, or even volunteer for NGO organizations such as doctors without borders. Additionally, learning a second language could help you to create geographic emphasis for your degree. For example, you could focus on sustainable development, environmental change, and technological development in certain parts of the world that speak the language you’re learning. Even off of the top of my head, I can think of several opportunities that any stem major could apply to which use both the stem and Arabic:
      1.  Some of the leading medical technology development takes place in Israel and there might be positions for lab techs.
      2. Saudi Arabia is investing millions of dollars into renewable energy and is hiring engineers from all over the world.
      3. Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, etc, need medical assistance from doctors and nurses.
  2. Political Science 
    1. As a political science major myself, there are countless ways to Arabic to humanitarian studies. I have an emphasis in Middle Eastern studies where I have written papers on Arab Nationalism, Arab Israeli Relations, economic development in Syria, the U.S’s impacts on Middle Eastern conflicts, and many more subjects. All of these papers require not only a knowledge of economics, political science, and history but also of Arab culture, which is highly influenced by the Arabic language. Through my studies, I have received opportunities to pursue Middle Eastern-focused research grants, study abroad, and volunteer abroad, creating a pathway for myself to work in diplomacy within one of the most influential regions of the world, the Middle East. These are just a few examples of what I have done, but there are thousands of other opportunities out there like internships in Washington D.C, model UN classes, State Department scholarships to study Arabic and diplomacy, and Middle Eastern diplomacy seminars. Additionally, if you are interested in graduate school, there are programs in the Middle East, such as The American University in Cairo, the American University in Beirut, The American University in Sharjah, Georgetown’s second school in Qatar, and NYU’s second school in Dubai.
  3. Education 
    1. Learning about the cultures, languages, and histories of different ethnic and religious groups is an important part of education in order to teach the next generation to be tolerant and accepting of everyone. Additionally, learning about other cultures and languages will also help you to create a multicultural environment in your classroom, where all students feel comfortable and can thrive.
    2. Knowing a language opens up the possibility of teaching language courses, TESOL, ESL, or starting a language/cultural club at your school. Speaking a second language also opens up the opportunity to teach abroad.
    3. With an increasingly diverse population in the U.S, there is a high chance that you could have a refugee, immigrant, Muslim, or simply a student from a minority in your class. Being able to use language to make connections with students will give them a safe and welcoming environment at school, where they may often feel left out.
  4. Business
      1. I feel like this one is self-explanatory, but the U.S does a lot of business in the Middle East, and knowing Arabic could get you a job at some of the top oil or trade companies. Additionally, it makes it easier to pursue a degree in international business when you know several languages, making you more equipped to work abroad as well as strengthening your resume.
  5. Criminal Justice
    1. As an undergraduate student, I have already had the FBI contact me about a job opening for an employee who speaks Arabic. Since the 2000s, many government and non-government agencies have been looking for native English speakers who also speak Arabic, giving you a foot into the door of some of the most competitive jobs in the country.
  6. Art
    1. Arabic is a highly stylized and artistic language that could be incorporated into art projects or exhibitions. Additionally, learning Arabic opens you up to Arab cultures and their traditional art forms, which may provide an opportunity to expand your techniques and knowledge of art history.
    2. You could specialize in a type of Middle Eastern artistic style or teach a course on Middle Eastern art.
    3. If you are an Architect, you could study Middle Eastern architecture. The Middle East hosts two of the 8 wonders of the world, Petra and the Pyramids, and is known for its stunning Islamic architecture.

Scholarships and Programs To Continue Arabic

  • CLS:
    • The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend eight to ten weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.
  • Boren:
    • The Boren Scholarship/ fellowship funds U.S. students to study abroad in regions of the world critical to the United States’ interests.
  • Fullbright:
    • The Fulbright Program, including the Fulbright–Hays Program, is one of several United States Cultural Exchange Programs with the goal to improve intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy, and intercultural competence between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.
    • AMIDEAST is a U.S. non-profit organization that works to strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa and to offer opportunities for learning and training.
  • Qasid Arabic Institute:
    • The Qasid Institute for Arabic has quietly developed a reputation as one of the leading centers in the Middle East for Arabic language learning. A comprehensive curriculum taught over five distinct levels takes a student from the proper pronunciation of letters to a level of mastery. They provide both courses in the Middle East as well as online.
  • Arab Academy:
    • Arab Academy is a privately owned corporation that aims to utilize technology to promote academic excellence. It also aims to promote the Arabic language and culture by leveraging its expertise in technology and education. Arab Academy is independent in nature and does not promote any particular school of thought. Instead, it focuses on bridging the gaps in communication between cultures by promoting tolerance and understanding.
  • Work Away:
    • This is an opportunity for anyone to travel anywhere in the world and experience life living within the culture. Work way offers the ability to live with a host family, where they will provide housing, transportation, and food in exchange for help around the house, tutoring services, or working at their company. All of the hosts are verified and you can choose how long you stay in each place. I personally have friends that have done this program and speak very highly of it.
  • Internships and job Information:


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Study Materials for Arabic Students by an Arabic Student Copyright © by Grace Hall via the Boise State Pathways Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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