Arabic at CPS: An Unforgettable Community Experience

Posted on: April 3rd, 2019 by sabbadi

Our Arabic Program at Loyola, with its focus on service and community support, has been delightfully offered the opportunity to teach Arabic to a wonderful group of 2nd graders at one of the local schools of the area. The interactive Arabic session, the cheerful engagement of the school kids and our Arabic Loyola volunteers (Mohammad has even to wear his kid-friendly shoe as he calls it), the kind support of the school administration, and the enthusiastic invitation and accommodation of the classroom teacher is unforgettable. Please enjoy photos of the workshop and reflections of our Loyola Arabic volunteers and their sense of civic responsibility.

Emilia: Arabic 104; sophomore double majoring in Global and International Studies and International Business with a minor in Arabic Language and Culture “During my junior year of high school, I did a research project on the benefits of teaching a foreign language in elementary school. For about 3 months, I used to go into a classroom of 32 very eager students wanting to learn basic words in Spanish, French, and Japanese. Our wonderful hosts at this school were no different. The rate at which these bright, second graders were able to pick up the writing of their names was beyond impressive. I think it took me a whole 2 weeks to get used to writing right to left, but the children were able to pick it up in minutes! Their energy and their eagerness to learn was wonderful and refreshing and it reminds me of why I have spent years in various language programs. It was amazing to be able to connect to the community that surrounds Loyola and see other Loyola students really embody the Jesuit values of giving back to the community that hosts us during the school season. Teaching the kids the writing of their names and the sounds produced by those letters allowed to be reflect on just how far I have progresses with our wonderful Arabic Language program here at Loyola. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my knowledge as well as the ability to reflect on just how far I have come in my own studies.”


Aliya: Arabic 102; Junior majoring in Human Services with minors in Arabic and Psychology  “This opportunity gave me the privilege to teach second graders how to write their names in Arabic. I felt inspired by their enthusiasm to learn a language that I am studying. Many of the students were eager to show us what they knew. It was beautiful to hold the hand of a child and direct their pencil to form letters spelling out their name. Some struggled more than others, but the excitement experienced by all children when they finally completed the task was incredibly memorable. Not only did I learn from the kids, but on the way back to campus, I was able to connect with my peers and learn more about the significance of coffee in Arab culture through conversations with this. This opportunity allowed me to connect with my community, second grade students, peers, and gain a deeper love for and desire to learn Arabic. shukran for this opportunity, ustaadha sawsan!”

Natasha: Arabic 104; Junior; International Business with minors in Arabic Language and Culture and Chinese Language and Culture “Teaching and helping the second graders Arabic at one of the Chicago Public Schools was very exciting and rewarding.  I am used to teaching languages to people who are older than me, so this was a first to teach young people.  They were very animated while still respectful to their teacher, Ustaadha Sawsan, the other volunteers, and me.  It warmed my heart to see the children exhilarated to learn the language from all of us, pick it up so quickly, pronounce the sounds perfectly, and neatly write their names on the first try.  I enjoyed my time in the classroom because young kids are always willing to try, no matter what, which I admire very much.  Lastly, I took pleasure in taking time out of my busy life and giving time to help those within the Chicago community.  Thank you Professor Abbadi and S. A. CPS School for giving us an opportunity to give our time and help young children’s minds flourish.”

Mohammad Q: Arabic 102; Junior; Biology Major “Initially I was nervous to visit Stone School’s second grade classroom and teach them Arabic. After arriving at the school and checking in. I made my way past the miniature lockers and walked into a vibrant room. I saw a plethora of kids each bringing their own different energy, some were quiet and other were rambunctious. The feeling of nervousness quickly turned into excitement, as I was eager to have fun with the kids. Ustaadha Sawsan expressed a side that I personally had never seen before when she taught the kids the Arabic alphabet. Shortly after, I helped my bundle of kids write their names in Arabic on decorative star shaped paper. In the end, I got the most sentimental feeling when little D. said shukran (thank you).  It truly was an unforgettable experience and I’m thankful for getting the chance to experience it.”

Petrit: Arabic 102; Senior Double majoring in Political Science and Theology “Volunteering at CPS was such an amazing experience. It was so much fun teaching the students how to spell and pronounce their names in Arabic. The students were so excited to learn and were able to grasp it so quickly. It really is amazing to see how fast these kids can learn Arabic. Even at the end of the session, the kids I was working with said “marHaba” to me and wrote it out to me as I was leaving. I focused mainly on writing their names and their friends’ names, but they remembered the first greeting that we greeted them with and were so interested in learning, that they even were able to write it out for me. It was overall such a wonderful experience not only to teach them Arabic, but also seeing them being so invested in it.”

Dunya: Arabic 102; freshman majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Arabic Language and Culture. “Ignorance is one of the world’s worst problems. It’s what leads to division, hatred, and fear of those who are different than you. This ignorance can start developing during childhood when children are not exposed to enough diversity and don’t learn to appreciate the things that they themselves might not belong to or understand. That’s why I personally loved everything about the morning at the elementary school. I saw this excitement in the kids eyes when they were learning these new letters to a strange and different language. I loved watching them try their best to write their names with perfect calligraphy in Arabic, and I loved hearing them ask me how to say new words from the language such as “shukraan” (thank you) or “marHaba” (hello). What I noticed is that this volunteering opportunity could be one way to fight all of the ignorance in the world because these kids are now growing up with exposure to individuals, languages, and religions that are different from their own personal background. Plus, they were having fun learning all these new letters and words with us, which made the experience the absolute best.”

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