April 7, 2011

How I decided to study Arabic

Hello everyone!
السلام عليكم

First of all  want to thank you for the comments on my previous post, it means a lot to me! I'm feeling much better now, thanks to my friends, some crazy movies and a few glasses of white wine :) And a crazy trip to Brussels yesterday: We wanted to go to a discussion evening about islam and secularity at the University of Brussels. Unfortunately that uni has 2 campuses: one in Jette and one in Etterbeek (that was the one we had to be) and of course we took the wrong train and ended up in Jette. After a lot of walking, a half an hour tram ride and another train ride, we arrived at the discussion, almost 1,5 hour too late. Whoops! Luckily it wasn't finished yet. After the discussion we went to town for spaghetti and to have a drink. It was such a lovely evening, and how we laughed :) We stayed so long that we missed the last train back, so a friend drove us back to Leuven, so sweet. Such fun!
Anyway, the title of this post is about how on earth I decided to study Arabic. When people ask what I study, and I say 'Arabic language and culture', mostly there are two options: 1) They say "Wow, so interesting, that's an original choice" etc. or 2) They give you a weird look and say "Seriously?, Why for God's sake?, Are you converting to Islam, Haha will you marry an Arab guy" or stuff like that. It really annoys me people give reactions like that, because those are stupid reasons. No, I won't become a muslim or marry an Arab man or wear a veil or even "make bombs, because they're all terrorists, aren't they?" (Someone really said that to me) My study isn't about converting all students to Islam, but about looking to Islam and the Middle East form a critical point of view. Yes, there are muslims in my class, and they don't always agree with some things the prof says, but I think that's the aim of the lessons: trying to open your mind, and be able to discuss different points of view.

Now, I agree that it wasn't an obvious choice for me to make. From almost two years before you graduate from high school, people start to ask what you will study. So I started to search and browse through university websites and flyers, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew for sure that it wouldn't be anything science, maths, sports, economic-related, I was much more interested in languages, history, literature etc. At first, I thought communication sciences would be the right choice for me. But then I visisted a website where a girl was talking about her communication sciences study, and I discovered that it was not really usefull (you learn about media like youtube, facebook etc. That can sound tempting, but what can you do with that in your life?) and even more: I saw that a few years before, I had commented myself on the article that I didn't see why studying this would be useful and that you can't do anything with it. So, that was scary! I decided to look for something else.

*No offence to people who study communication sciences! :) It just wasn't for me.

Maybe I should say first that, when we went on holiday to Morocco three years ago, I became really interested in studying the languages and culture. I searched for it on the internet, but I only looked at Ghent University, where you can study Arabic but only together with another languages lik Chinese, Hebrew, cuneiform etc. and I didn't want that. For some unknown reason I never thought of the University of Leuven (where I study now).
So I forgot about that idea.

This is going to be a looooong post, I'm sorry :)

So, where was I? Oh yes, it was January last year and I almost became desperate because I dnd't know what I would be studying. I was sure that it would be languages. As much as I like French and English, I wanted something more: I didn't want to become one of the thousand English-Dutch Language and Literature students, if you know what I mean. Then I thought of our holiday to Morocco, and how the Arabic language had fascinated me. So when the flyer from Leuven University arrived, I discovered that there was an entire study about Arabic language, history and Islam! It seemd very interesting. In February I attended a course at university (they allow high school students a few weeks a year to 'try out' lessons so that they get an idea of the study) and after the two hour course, I knew this would be the right choice for me.

Then came the part of telling my friends and family what I would be studying the next year. I remember that most of them were very suprised, but they were all positive and interested. It was very strange to tell my friends: they were going to study medicins, law, psychology; the 'usual' stuff, and I suddenly told them that I would be studying Arabic! But I think it's nice and interesting that we all study different things :)

I still get annoying reactions from people who think Islam and Arabic culture is all about terrorism, suppression of women, Al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden. It's so much more than that! Of course I don't justify terrorism or stoning people to death (or other punishments some radical Islamic countries apply), but I think we can't generalize that to 'all muslims'. There isn't something like 'the Islam', it has many aspects and some of them aren't that bad :)

Phew, what a story! I hope you made it to the end :)

Arabic book store in Brussels, so proud we could read the sign :)
I'm almost finished with my first year of Arabic already (5 weeks of lessons to go before exams) and I haven't regretted for a second. It is difficult and I have to study new vocabulary every week (I realy should start to do that.) but it's so much fun when you can talk to each other in Arabic and read things I thought were impossible to decipher :) I also like that we are on average 20 students in the first year: everybody knows each other and the teacher know every student's name. The disadvantage is that they always notice if you skip a lesson, haha :)

I hope this was interesting to you and that you now understand a little bit why I study this. Let me know what you think :)

Siel x