My oldest son wants to study Arabic, among other things (at this point his interests are pretty broad). He’s somewhat familiar with how Arabic works, having learned a little in Israel, along with becoming fluent in Modern Hebrew, a closely related language. Arabic classes are not easy to find around these parts, though we’ve found some good programs through various colleges. But at $8000 to $11,000 for an eight week intensive program (including room and board), or a college-sponsored study abroad program at college rates and lots of hoopla, it’s not an easy sell for us. So I suggested we find something more grass roots. Inspired by The New Global Student by Maya Frost and fortified with the knowledge that my son has already lived in the Middle East and we still have contacts there, I did a search and found three opportunities under $2000, plus airfare and visa fees, with flexible lengths of stay. Love Volunteers and Project Hope take volunteers in the West Bank who teach and hang out with with Palestinian children and work on various projects such as farming, and Coptic Orphans volunteers help with kids at orphanages in Egypt. Both offer the opportunity to take Arabic classes, and in my experience, there’s no better kind of early language immersion than being surrounded by kids who speak the language. Opportunities in Jordan are currently limited, I assume because all resources are being directed toward the Syrian refugee crisis.
The other neat thing about Arabic is that it’s considered a “critical language” by the U.S. State Department (duh), which will fully fund second year Arabic studies through their Critical Language Scholarship program (which our neighbor clued us into). Not sure if that leads to recruitment into intelligence gathering careers, but we can use it. Also, depending on what college my son decides on, I’m hoping there will be opportunities for him to earn college level credits from this volunteer work and language study, maybe even in multiple disciplines such as international studies, journalism, politics, and education. Last, I hope that if he decides to go for it, his commitment to do so will impress the heck out of college entrance committees that might otherwise not be impressed by certain lackluster portions of his transcript.