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TAMU’s Morocco Arabic Institute Adapts to Challenges

Screenshot of students attending virtual Arabic lecture

By Marley Grimes ’24

Due to the extenuating circumstances of the global pandemic the A&M Morocco Arabic Institute, a 10-week faculty-led study abroad program, was canceled for the summer semester of 2021. Professor Salah Ayari, the program leader and Arabic professor, began working with his partners at IES Abroad Rabat to explore virtual programming options and to discover the opportunities that are available through it. Although in-country immersion was not possible, students did not miss out completely.

IPad showing Arabic class watching guest instructor

Students virtually toured different museums and historical sites, practiced their linguistic skills with locals, and watched cooking and calligraphy tutorials online. Through virtual immersion, students visited six countries, including Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Iraq. This allowed the students to see the differences in dialects, food, and culture across the region. Dr. Ayari noted that virtual programming is a valuable resource to help students strengthen listening comprehension abilities and sharpen conversational skills with native speakers. As a result, he saw their confidence in using the language greatly increase throughout the program. An important component of the virtual program was a reflection journal kept by the students, prompting them to think critically about their experiences. Often students arrive with preconceptions of the Middle East, and, during the course of their studies, reevaluate their views, Dr. Ayari explained. Immersion into Arabic culture, history, and dialects not only enhances students’ language learning and acquisition but also offers students a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Arabic world. The lessons learned and best practices employed last summer in using virtual programming will come in handy as Dr. Ayari prepares the summer’s curriculum. As a result of the lingering effects of the global pandemic, the A&M Morocco Arabic Institute will return to a virtual platform for the summer of 2022.

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