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Photo courtesy of Mahd Asghar

Learning Arabic with Immersive Experiences

Students in colloquial Arabic course immersed themselves in Levantine culture through a weekend homestay.

From Nov. 1 to 3, NYU Abu Dhabi students enrolled in the university’s Colloquial Arabic: Levantine Dialect course had the unique opportunity to participate in a homestay with three Palestinian families living in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. The students spoke Arabic during the entirety of the stay to connect with the hosts’ culture and were exposed firsthand to the Arabic dialect spoken in the Levant region, namely in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Below are some of their perspectives and photographs of the experience.
Nadine Endija Laze, Class of 2019
Authentic experiences, such as the homestay with a Palestinian family, is the reason why I wanted to study the Arabic language in the first place. It's much more than just learning a language, it is a way to understand the culture and mentality beyond the everyday stereotypes, and this weekend is a great example of that. Not only did we practice Arabic to gain more fluency, but also gained a better understanding of the cultural practices and family life both through observing and having the chance to engage in open conversation. My highlight of the weekend for sure was learning how to make some of everyone's favourite dishes: maqlubeh, falafel, hummus fatteh and the all-time favorite sweet kanafeh.
Everett Pruett, Class of 2021
The Arabic Program put together an absolutely incredible experience for our homestays. This opportunity allowed us to practice our colloquial Arabic in a variety of circumstances that not only built proficiency, but also confidence. Our host family was incredibly hospitable and opened their homes and lives for us for the sake of our learning experience. They taught us how to cook, brought us to a park for a picnic and fed us an abundance of fantastic food. I am so glad that I had this opportunity to partake in such an experience.
Mahd Asghar, Class of 2019
Staying with a Palestinian family in Al Ain was a fantastic experience. Not only did we get to hone our Arabic through meaningful dialogue, but also gain a perspective on the wonderful hospitality in Palestinian culture. We were treated to a picnic in the park, a lesson into making ka’ak and an abundance of delicious homemade cuisine. I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience!
Alena Mikhalkovich, Class of 2019
The experience of living at the heart of Abu Dhabi with a wonderful Palestinian family cannot be overestimated. Our host sister took us on a few walks in the city, showing us some places we had not seen before. We went together to a beauty salon, chilled at a family park, drank coffee at a coffee shop that was full of Arabs, had a tour of Sheikh Zayed Founder’s Memorial and walked on Al Hudayriat Island. I really enjoyed our conversations in Arabic over delicious meals cooked by the host mum at home. That’s when we learned a lot of pure Palestinian words and expressions that enriched our knowledge of the language and understanding of the culture.
Nadine Endija Laze, Everett Pruett, Mahd Asghar and Alena Mikhalkovich are contributing writers. Email them at
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