Catherine Haslam

Catherine Haslam, Arabic Language Institute 2010, participant

Not only did my Arabic improve significantly through the intensive study and structure of the  [ALI] Morocco program, but my understanding of Islam and Muslim culture. Within my host family, there were women who wore hijabs, women who didn’t, a very conservative uncle and a more liberal father, and teenagers who reminded me of my friends in America. I was able to achieve the intermediate Arabic certificate from the Center for Language and Culture, Marrakesh, and with it, an improved sense of diplomacy and awareness when speaking to the Moroccans. I developed the curiosity and drive to perfect my Arabic and learn as much as possible in the fields of international relations and the Middle East. …[it] stirred more curiosity that will take me through my goals in diplomacy and government, but most importantly, understanding. Oh, and it was SO MUCH FUN.”

Catherine  first attended a different NSLI-Y Program in Egypt in Summer of 2009, and then attended Legacy’s  Arabic Language Institute program in Morocco in Summer 2010. She expresses the kind of positive  “life changing” experience that we find happens with those attending Legacy’s programs.


Arabic language students at Center for Language and CultureWere you a beginner in the language when you went to the country for the first time?  Was it your first trip abroad?

I didn’t even know the Arabic alphabet. It was not my first trip abroad–I was actually born in Liverpool, UK–but it was my first extended trip in an Arabic-speaking country.

What about your first NSLI-Y program experience made you want to re-apply for a chance to go back abroad?

It’s impossible to answer this while staying away from cliches, because I really did fall in love with the language, the people, and the culture. The structure of the program was exactly what I had hoped for–rigorous, while flexible. AFS volunteers and our teachers worked with us, keeping in mind that while we were there to study, we were also going through the stages of integrating into a country so different from our own, and living with host families. I learned enough Arabic during my first stay to keep up with it on a half-independent, half-tutored basis throughout the year, so that when I applied for the second program, I could test into the next level. I made some of the best friends and, as I consider them, family, of my life, and not only practice my Egyptian Arabic with them now, but met with them during a visit my friends took for a reunion last summer. These ties have made me the quasi-reporter for our school regarding the protests in Egypt. Those in my community who were once ignorant of the people, the government, and our diplomatic relationship with the country now know the truth about the people and nation as a whole after my experience there. I had conversations with parents in Egypt about politics, social life, and the history of our culture while there–things I couldn’t have learned in a textbook. The wealth of information, language-learning, independence, self-learning, and cultural-learning that took place during my time in Egypt made it impossible for me not to reapply.

What were you/have you been able to achieve on your second NSLI-Y program?Arabic language students at Center for Language and Culture

As a result of my experience in my first NSLI-Y program, I came to my second, in Morocco, with more questions to seek answers for. These were questions about language, culture, religion, politics, family life, my limits, and, of course, how many more stories my friends could take about my NSLI-Y experiences. Not only did my Arabic improve significantly through the intensive study and structure of the Morocco program, but my understanding of Islam and Muslim culture. Within my host family, there were women who wore hijabs, women who didn’t, a very conservative uncle and a more liberal father, and teenagers who reminded me of my friends in America. I was able to achieve the intermediate Arabic certificate from the Center for Language and Culture, Marrakesh, and with it, an improved sense of diplomacy and awareness when speaking to the Moroccans. I could pick up on the dialect, Darija, much better, and thus take part in interesting taxi ride conversations where I learned more than any student studying Arabic in the U.S. could have. I developed the curiosity and drive to perfect my Arabic and learn as much as possible in the fields of international relations and the Middle East. My second NSLI-Y program expanded my skills and stirred more curiosity that will take me through my goals in diplomacy and government, but most importantly, understanding. Oh, and it was SO MUCH FUN.

Do you plan to continue your study of the language/country in college and beyond?

Absolutely. Next year I will be attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and I am double majoring in International Relations and Arabic. I hope to join the Peace Corps later on, and to ideally, eventually work for the government in my fields of interest. In what way did the experience make you change your career/life goals? I used to want to be a doctor–then I took Biology. Then, before my NSLI-Y experiences, I began taking interest in the Middle East, and enjoyed languages, but never imagined I would be where I am today. I was a different person, more driven by grades than learning. Egypt shaped what it meant to excel, understand, be confident, ask questions, and truly learn, for me. I now, as I said above, want to eventually become fluent in Arabic and work for the government to use my language and create the relationship between America and the Middle East that now, in light of the protests, is needed more than ever.

Legacy International’s Arabic Language Institute program is in partnership with the Center for Language and Culture and  is part of the National Security Language Institute for Youth (NSLI-Y).  To apply to Legacy’s Arabic Language Institute program fill out initial applications on the NSLI  website Applications are due November 3, 2011.

“The NSLI -Y is part of a broader government-wide presidential initiative that prepares American citizens to be leaders in a global world. Now more than ever, it is important that Americans have the necessary linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to promote international dialogues, support American engagement abroad, and attain better understanding of global cultures and issues. NSLI-Y encourages a lifetime of language study and cultural understanding by supporting K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and professional language programs for languages that have traditionally not been taught in the United States.”