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This past summer I completed the Arabic Summer Intensive Language Program (SILP) at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this program because of the Global Studies Summer Award.

I am in the Global Studies MA Program and I was determined coming into the program to add to my foreign language skills set while here at Carolina. Fortunately, I found the Curriculum in Global Studies to be very supportive in this endeavor. My first year in the program I did not take any language classes due to my commitments as a TA but by my second semester, I knew I wanted to study Arabic, as Arabic would not only serve me well in my research while at UNC, but also in my career future career as well, as I would like to enter government service after graduating.  In order to reach the level of proficiency in Arabic that I needed, I knew that I would have to work hard and condense my learning time-frame. That’s why I applied for the Summer Intensive Language Program at MIIS. The Global Studies Summer Award made my summer experience possible.

The SILP at MIIS is an only an 8-week program, but they promise you can get through the equivalent of an academic year of language study if you put in the effort. My first day in the program my professor told the class, “Don’t miss a class. You miss one class—that’s like missing a week during the regular semester.” At that point, I knew they weren’t kidding when they said the program was intensive. But I welcomed the challenge. I knew this was the best chance I had to meet my goal of learning Arabic during my graduate studies and I was not going to waste the opportunity.

I was not disappointed! We spend the first two days learning the alphabet. By week two we were writing short paragraphs and by the end of the program had to write two-page (typed) essays multiple times a week. It was language-learning by drinking from a firehose—but it was effective. This semester I placed into Intermediate Arabic here at UNC. It is still a challenge and I have a long way to go to become proficient in the language, but the program at MIIS got me to where I needed to be to continue my language studies and achieve my goals. I am very grateful to the Curriculum in Global Studies because without the Summer Student Award, I would not have been able to attend the summer program at MIIS and I would not have the wealth of experience and knowledge that I gained this past summer. I think the summer program and the Arabic I learned as a result will stand out as a pivotal moment for my trajectory as student, for my career and in life.