Over 27 students have joined Arabic Club, which meets once a week in room D202, since Colleen ’14 and Evan ’13 started the group in September to bring awareness of Arabic language and culture to the School. Colleen, who studied Arabic last summer at MiddleburyMonterey Language Academy, a month-long immersion program at Pomona College in Claremont, California, was inspired to start the club with Evan, who studied the language when she spent the first semester of her junior year in Morocco.
History and Social Sciences Department Head and Arabic Club advisor Cathy Atwell said she thinks the club provides the space for girls to learn about and experience Arabic culture.
Meetings usually entail eating Middle Eastern food such as baklava, discussing customs and learning words and short phrases in Arabic. Although conversations occasionally touch upon current events in the Middle East, the club’s main focus is to explore the culture of the Arabic-speaking world in a way students can connect to.
“We talk about cultural and political issues, but it is really all about breaking down stereotypes and cultural barriers,” Colleen said.
Daphne ’14, who signed up for Arabic Club at Club Fair in September and now serves as the club’s secretary, says she has always been fascinated by Arabic culture.
“I’m obsessed. My room even has an Arabian Nights theme,” she said, adding that she especially loves the language and grammar lessons in the club. “I really want to get to the point where I can have an actual conversation with someone. But at least I’m really good at small talk.”
Colleen said that many of the activities done in the club reflect things she learned over the summer at Claremont, where all participants signed a language pledge to speak only in Arabic for the duration of the immersion camp.
“I didn’t know any Arabic going in[to the summer program], which was a little scary,” she said. In addition to learning Arabic, students also learned about Arab culture and current events in the Middle East. Everyday activities included Arabic lessons, electives such as cooking and filmmaking, Frisbee tournaments and field trips to local museums, all of which were conducted in Arabic.
“I gained a… unique cultural awareness and understanding of Middle Eastern culture that I wanted to bring back and share with everyone here,” Colleen said.
* Marhaba means “Hello” in Arabic