Student Story | Filomena De Lucia, Italy
An Extraordinary Cultural Learning Experience in Alexandria, Egypt
Hello, I’m Filomena from Naples, Italy. I have a Bachelor degree in Comparative Languages and Culture from University of Naples “L’Orientale” for Foreign Languages. Also I finished a Master degree in the same university specializing in foreign languages intercultural communication and cooperation. I’ve worked in Translation for a while and also teaching Italian to foreign students.
So my journey with Arabic language started in the university. But to learn a language is necessary to live a while in a country where the language is used and spoken in everyday conversation and everyday life. Especially in Arabic, It was not enough what I studied in University, because it was mainly grammar, translation. Also you learn a language perfectly when you immerse yourself in the culture.
Why Ahlan World?
I knew about Ahlan World School from other people who studied here previously, also I knew about it during my university studies of Arabic because it was a well known school in this field. Thus, it encourages me to search more about the school and make the decision to travel to Egypt.
This was the best decision I’ve ever made. It gave me the chance to live an extraordinary experience. I chose Egypt because I’ve always liked this country, you know it’s full of rich history and culture. And we started studying Egyptian ancient history in primary school. So Egypt is a country we have always heard about. Also I chose Egypt for practicing the spoken language, and I want to specialize in the Egyptian dialect.
In particular, I chose Alexandria because of the sea specially, and also I came here in summer, so that was the best season of Alexandria. So I was fascinated by the fact that it’s a mediterranean city so it’s very close to some of the other italian cities like Naples. I can see a lot of similarities between Alexandria and Naples, in the buildings, the culture sometimes, the daily life so I feel home sometimes, especially the sea side.
I stayed 6 months in Ahlan Alexandria. My experience was very good, was excellent actually. I had a very nice time here with the staff and the teachers. Everyone here is very kind, very helpful and encouraging as well, especially the teachers. I can feel free to learn without pressure without being afraid of making mistakes. I like the way that Ahlan makes the students immerse themselves in the culture. It’s not only a school but also living the culture through the school so I’m very satisfied with this choice of coming here. I’m very happy about feeling relaxed while learning such a difficult language.
I liked the activities specially during the summer period when there are a lot of students coming and going. Ahlan school organizes a lot of activities which were useful to let the students know each other and also to experience more about the Egyptian lifestyle. For example, I remember the board games we had at school, then we had a movie we watched all together. Then of course I remember the yacht trip. It was very nice seeing the Alexandria landscape from the yacht. All the activities help students know each other and know better about the culture of the city.
My Arabic Learning Journey
I studied both Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA) or the Egyptian Dialect, I started mainly Modern Standard Arabic. But after a while I decided to have equal hours of Modern Standard Arabic and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. And studying Egyptian Dialect is especially useful here to practice it also apart from the classes. So It was fundamental for me to study ECA as well here. I studied several topics like family, travel and daily routine. Also more engaging topics like the protection of the environment and natural disasters. And also we talk about Egyptian culture.
When I arrived I didn’t know anything about Egyptian Dialect but now I can understand some expressions in the street. For example when they’re not talking to me I can recognize the words, and for sure I’m more able to start and engage in conversations. I’m really satisfied with my progress in both MSA and ECA, and feel more confident in the language. I still have to practice more, because Arabic is a language that you’ll never stop learning. It’s like an ocean.
It has been a good opportunity for me also to be in an internship as an Italian teacher. Because at the same time I could experience being a student and a teacher. Being a student helped me understand more the needs of the students of Italian language. Being in their same role in the Arabic classes I can feel the challenges and difficulties when it comes to learning a new language. So it helps me to improve the methods to overcome these difficulties.
It was fundamental for me to be in the role of the student to better understand their needs. For example, when they have difficulties in doing the exercises, I can understand. Oh yes , for me it is the same, I have some difficulties as well.
And also the best thing about the internship program is that I established a good relationship with my students, not only like the teacher and students relationship, it was also more like a cultural exchange to me. In fact I learned a lot thanks to my students. It’s like they introduce a little by little to Egyptian culture. It was like a friendly exchange.
My Tour in Egypt
I visited a lot of cities and places in Egypt. First, the city of Alexandria, where I was residing, and its unique old museums and the mediterranean sea. I visited several places in Alexandria, like the Qaitbay Citadel, Jewelry Museum, Catacombs, and Pompey’s Pillar. Then I visited the military museum in Al-Alamin, then I went to Marsa Matrouh to see its beautiful sea.
After that, I went to Al-Fayum, in particular the pottery village called Tunis, which was very beautiful. Also I went to Siwa oasis where I spent 3 days. It’s beautiful as well. I enjoyed it alot. And I was immersed in the atmosphere of it.
At the end of my journey in Egypt, I went to Cairo and Giza. In Cairo, I visited Al-azhar mosque, Al-azhar park and Tahrir square. Also khan el khalili, Al-moez street and Egyptian Museum. Then the Coptic Church and Hanging Church. In Giza, for sure the Pyramids and I also made a tour of the other pyramids, Saqara, Manfes and Dahshur.
I also visited Luxor and Aswan, this was like traveling in history, because in luxor I visited all the tombs of the pharaohs and a lot of temples, I also went to Abu-Simbel. In this journey, I discovered a lot about the pharaohs and ancient history, so I enjoyed this part of the visit.
I did a cruise in the Nile, this cruise started from Luxor and reached Aswan and Abu-Simbel. That was really worth doing!
My general review of the experience is very positive. I liked the school, it’s like being in a family where I can learn without being under pressure. Because teachers make me speak without having fear of speaking, sometimes when you’re not confident with a language you’re afraid of speaking but here in the classroom all the teachers are very encouraging and make you speak without the fear of making mistakes. Also the school as well it’s a friendly environment where all the staff are really helpful and ready to help you for social activities and also on an individual basis if I have any problems I can ask all the staff and all of them were always helpful.