Syrian Professor introduces Middle Easter Culture to CSC

Imagine growing up in a big city, constantly surrounded by bright lights, noise and people and always having a plethora of things to do. Take a city like Damascus for example, which is the capital and largest city in Syria, with a population of more than 1.5 million. And after say, about 25 years of this lifestyle, imagine being selected to move your whole life to an existence that is the complete opposite, in Castleton, Vt. — population just over 4,000.

For Rasha Arabi, a new assistant professor at Castleton, this life change was the only option for her to pursue her dreams and follow her passion.

Arabi, after traveling the 15-hour plus flight from Syria to the United State for the first time ever, has now been here for just over month.

“It was definitely a culture shock,” said Arabi. “I had looked Castleton on a map, but I was definitely expecting a big city, or expecting something very different,” she said.

After graduating as an English major in Syria, Arabi held a position in Damascus teaching Arab people English, but decided to pursue her passion of international culture in the states after receiving a scholarship through Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant, which contracts her at Castleton until 2011.

“At first it was hard walking down here. I was sad, angry; I lost ground. There are always people wherever you go [in Syria.] On the weekend, I definitely miss my own voice. Anytime I see a student I say hi to them,” said Arabi with a laugh. “But at the same time, I love it here. I am really doing some reflection on my life.”

Arabi is currently teaching one section of Arabic 101 at Castleton. The class not only deals with the Arabic language, but the Arab culture. Arabi has made it her objective to tackle some of the many misconceptions our media portrays about the Middle East.

“I love telling people about my culture, people do care, and they want to know,” she said. “[My passion] has come from the way my part of the world has been represented. I have the tools, and I have the language.

“It’s just not fair, to judge a whole culture, a society, a massive piece of land, based on the thoughts of a few people. It’s just so not fair,” she said.

The class has about 13 students in one section, although Arabic 102 and 103 are still prospective for next semester.

“From the very first day, Rasha has taught us a whole bunch of stuff that I never knew about the Arab countries and she did that by having us play a game the first day about what we thought the culture and people of those countries were,” said sophomore Melissa Orr. “I am a lot more interested in the Middle East then I was because I’ve already learned so much about it and we aren’t even half way through the semester yet. Rasha makes it really fun and interesting, I love the class, and I’m hoping that she continues to teach at the school,” she said.

Although it is now too late to join Arabic 101 for the fall semester, there are other options for

To get Castleton students involved and learning more about Middle Eastern culture, Arabi encourages them to check out the International Club, and plans to start the Arabic Coffee Table Club. The option of taking Arabic 101 will also be available during the spring semester.

“I had an original interest in the Middle Eastern world before this class, but this has just spiked my interest even more,” said sophomore Gabrielle Brooks. “I have no regrets for taking this class. I absolutely love it and look forward to going every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!” she said

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