Introductions and Nerves

!أهلاً وسهلاً

In exactly one month, I begin my 30 hour journey to Beirut, Lebanon. In the past few weeks, my emotions have been all over the place ranging from incredible excitement to worrisome anxiety. While I have been studying the Middle East for the past four years and Arabic for the past two, studying abroad will be a whole new experience. In the following paragraphs I will spew a few introductions about myself and my program.

The reason I chose Lebanon for my study abroad was because of its interesting colonial legacy and contemporary political movements. In my past several years of academia, I have focused my attentions of these topics and specifically on Lebanon. The political structures left behind by the French left the country with a difficult system that, in part, led to a fifteen year civil war. Today, Lebanon continues to rebuild and grow. While tensions are high with issues in neighboring Syria, Lebanon has been relatively stable for the past decade and is open to foreign tourism and study. I’m hoping that my time abroad will improve my ability to converse with locals in the Lebanese dialect and improve my cultural and historical knowledge of the country.

For months I have been discussing my trip to Lebanon with friends and family. I have endured many a lecture from those who rely solely on American media portrayals of the Middle East. While I chose Lebanon for a number of reasons, I chose the Summer Institute for Intensive Arabic and Culture specifically because of its language program. While other universities in the region focus on either MSA or colloquial skills, SINARC teaches both. I’m therefore hoping to improve both skill sets. Ideally, I will then utilize that knowledge in my masters program and future career.

I applied to SINARC almost six months ago. As per usual with a busy schedule, time has flown by since then. A few days ago, Lebanese American University sent me more detailed information about the program.  While I knew I was leaving for Lebanon in June, and I have been dreaming of studying Arabic there for quite some time, those forms from SINARC made it all real for me. I really can’t believe it’s only a month away.

My friend Nicole, who has traveled abroad extensively, told me it’s pretty normal to facilitate between nerves and excitement as my departure date approaches. Last week, I fell asleep anxious every night worrying about language immersion. This week, I’ve been nothing but excited. While full immersion into Arabic will be daunting, it’s the best possible thing I can do for my language acquisition. Aside from the language, the cultural experience of living in Beirut for a summer will be invaluable.

The next steps for me will be to fill out numerous forms (such as health information, roommate forms, etc.), and begin packing. While buying international electrical adapters has been slightly more difficult than expected, I know it will all work out. While packing perfectly is hardly the most important thing in the world, it’s an important next step and will get me one step closer to boarding a plan to Beirut!


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Allison Swaim

About Allison Swaim

Allison is a senior at Portland State University majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. On her 22 birthday, she will make her first trip abroad to Lebanon. While the emphasis of the trip is to expand her Arabic skills, she is excited to experience the culture of Beirut. She is interested in post-colonial political movements, nationalism and conflict analysis. Having strayed very little from the Pacific Northwest, Allison is ready for a new adventure. While she has prepared as much as she can for her journey across the world, she accepts that she has no idea what she's getting herself into.

3 thoughts on “Introductions and Nerves

  1. Hey Allison, mar7ababik fi el sharq el uwsat! I’m a fellow “Notes from Abroad” blogger/PSU alum, and I’ll be in Lebanon studying Arabic for a couple weeks this August. If you’re still around maybe we can grab shay and sheesha and swap stories about being Portlanders in Beirut. Until then, good luck with all of your preparations.

    رحلة سعيدة

    • That’s so awesome! I leave Beirut on August 3rd, so I don’t know if I can catch you, but hopefully we can make something work. Lebanon is awesome, have you been here before?

      • It sounds like I will just miss you– I leave for Beirut tomorrow morning, and I guess you left yesterday. It will be my first time in Lebanon, and I am really looking forward to it. Sounds like you had an amazing trip. Safe travel back to beautiful OR.

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