This study abroad experience has had a substantial impact on my academic and professional goals, but not in the typical sense of “now I know what career I want” or “now I know what graduate degree to get.” Rather, it has given me the courage to not settle for something I don’t believe in or don’t have a passion for. This experience abroad has given me the confidence to ***cliché alert*** reach for my dreams. Let me see if I can explain myself.
Like many other languages, Arabic is hard. It challenges my abilities constantly. It’s empowering. It’s frustrating. One moment I feel like I have it, then the next moment I don’t. Arabic and I definitely have a love/hate relationship. One thing that keeps me going is my passion for what it provides me: the ability to delve into the profundities of Middle Eastern culture. Speaking with natives for two hours a day in Arabic was a daily homework assignment that required discipline, but for me it was also a great privilege. Being a language learner means becoming vulnerable. That vulnerability broke down a lot of social and cultural barriers and gave me access to the hopes and fears of real people. The study abroad gave me a chance to check my arrogance at the door and really understand people. It enhanced and complemented my world view giving me insight into issues I had previously not had. This is a main reason for my study of Arabic aside from the fact that I have really come to love the Arabic language.
I didn’t choose to study this language just to have a competitive edge on job or grad school applications or to sound exotic; I chose it because I have a genuine desire for it. My future has been determined by the study abroad because I am no longer afraid to pursue something I am passionate for because conventional wisdom says I should do something else. I don’t have to let others dictate to me what graduate degree to get or what career I am best suited for. This experience has taught me that there is no one pathway to success. There is no one degree to get or job to aim for. Every person is different. We each wind our own way through life. Why not wind your way doing something you love?