Student Story | Gabriel Gleaves, UK
A Wonderful Learning Experience on Egypt’s Mediterranean Coastline
After graduating from the University of Manchester in 2021, I knew that I wanted to return to an Arabic speaking country. Having spent four months in Jordan during my year abroad in 2019, I got a glimpse of the ‘Arab world’; its complexity, beauty and culture of hospitality and so I decided to apply for an internship as a Spanish teacher at Ahlan World Arabic School in Alexandria, Egypt. After giving a sample lesson online, I was offered the opportunity and travelled to Egypt’s principal seaport on the 29th of March.
My Arabic classes consisted of both the Egyptian dialect (ECA) or ‘amiyya’ and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or ‘Fusha’ in which we focussed on ‘Media Arabic’ discussing topics such as the war in Ukraine, the French Presidential elections and Brexit. Having studied only MSA at university, I had no previous contact with the Egyptian dialect and I was therefore quite amazed at how different the two forms of Arabic are.
After 6 weeks of amiyya however, I can confidently say that I’ve progressed immensely since my arrival and although I am not yet fluent in the dialect, I can easily converse with the locals and understand most of our conversations. That is in no small part down to the excellent teaching offered at Ahlan who offer a multitude of learning experiences, from group classes to one-on-one lessons, intensive study (4/6 hours a day) or a less rigorous schedule (1/2 hours a day) and Media, MSA or ECA classes in which the student, as was the case with my experience, can choose the subjects he/she wants discuss whilst dipping in and out of the pre-arranged curriculum.
Aside from studying, I’ve had the opportunity to explore Egypt’s numerous cultural and touristic hubs. I went to Siwa, a traditional Amazigh town surrounded by naturally occurring hot and cold springs and salt lakes, Hurghada on the red sea, a hot spot for scuba diving and snorkelling and of course Giza, where the world famous Pyramids and Sphinx are located. I went with my Mum who came to visit for a couple of days and we both loved it. We went to Petra together as well whilst I was in Jordan, that’s now two wonders of the ancient world checked off the list! However most of my time was spent in the coastal city of Alexandria. Unlike Cairo, al-iskandariyya enjoys a constant sea breeze and has fewer people which allows for much better weather and a more relaxed atmosphere. It also boasts stunning views of the Mediterranean ocean and famous restaurants like Sheik Wafiq which offers delicious sweet treats such as Egypt’s national dessert Um ‘Ali made of puff pastry with pistachios, coconut, raisins and cream.
“Learning Arabic in Egypt was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my intellectual and personal growth.”
Not only can I now read news articles which tackle topics such as terrorism, elections and criminal cases with greater ease, but I have also established a solid foundation of Egyptian amiyya, one of the two Arabic dialects (the other being Syrian) which is widely understood and spoken across the Arab world. This was also the first time I had moved abroad by myself, with no higher establishment or close friends to help me if anything went wrong. Consequently my sense is that I’ve become a more resilient person and I’m better equipped at handling tricky situations and circumstances.
My experience in Egypt has been both challenging and rewarding. I’m grateful to have met so many wonderful people.
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