Thinking Globally in an Isolated World
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of many and has gifted countless tribulations to world of academia. It has forced NC State to completely alter the way curriculum is taught. A major result of this is that study abroad programs have been put on pause. Study abroad at NC State gives students the ability to investigate and experience their studies in an impactful, deeper way. It is truly an experience of a life time, but it is simply not safe to travel the world right now. This does not mean that the quality and experience of this education must be compromised though.
Dr. Elizabeth Saylor, an Arabic professor in the Foreign Language and Literature department, leads a study abroad group to Jerusalem every summer. She is a firm believer that complete immersion in a society is the best way to learn their language and culture. Unfortunately, her Jerusalem trip was cancelled this past summer due to the pandemic. But this did not stop her.
Dr. Saylor and a few of her colleagues designed an online program called Yallah al-Quds that would allow people to still experience the benefits of this study abroad trip. Yallah al-Quds offers native Arabic and English speakers a place to interact and learn. The program provides Palestinian and Arabic students with language and business classes and opportunities to partake in thought-provoking discussions. What is unique about this program is the fact that there is no hierarchy. Equality is a huge focus in these courses to create a healthy and productive learning environment. For example, instead of having “students” and “teachers” they have “participants” and “facilitators”. This empowers everyone involved in the program because no one is made out to be less, everyone is seen as equal. This allows the mission of platform to be the main focus, the sharing of language. Another amazing aspect of this forum is that that the courses are completely free. Dr. Saylor acknowledges that this is a hard-financial time for many and she wanted to make this program accessible to all. Yallah al-Quds is committed to including people from all different backgrounds overcoming today’s global challenges.
Zack Jenio, a current student at NC State, was one of the facilitators of this program. In his interview, he mentioned that his favorite part of Yallah al-Quds was most certainly the people he gets to work with. He emphasized the importance of diversity within the program saying “…everyone brought their own expertise, experiences and beliefs to the table which culminated in such a great blend and sharing opportunity of cultures.”
Zack also mentioned how Yallah al-Quds embodies the spirit of NC State. He says, “To take what you’re learning and apply it to an organization or program that extends beyond NC State’s community is exactly what the NCSU experience is all about… There’s nothing like this in the world right now, so in true NCSU fashion we are leading the pack and pioneering the future of language learning.” Yallah al-Quds proves that even during a pandemic, it is possible to “Think and Do”.