Camp­bell Stu­dents Reach Out To Qatar

MidWeek Islander (West Oahu) - - Front Page -

BY CHRISTINA O’CON­NOR

Two Camp­bell High School se­niors, Hi­lario Al­berto Aguirre and Chris­tian Gal­iza, were among 24 stu­dents from across the coun­try who par­tic­i­pated in an ed­u­ca­tional ex­change trip to Doha, Qatar, last month.

They joined fel­low stu­dents from Texas, Tuc­son, Seat­tle and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in Doha, where the group was matched up with 24 Qatari stu­dents.

An an­nual pro­gram or­ga­nized by Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based non­profit Qatar Foun­da­tion In­ter­na­tional (QFI), the ex­change trip is de­signed to not only to help stu­dents im­prove their Ara­bic lan­guage skills, but to fos­ter cross-cul­tural com­mu­ni­ca­tion. QFI was founded in 2009 to con­nect cul­tures of the Mid­dle East to the Amer­i­cas and to ad­vance global ci­ti­zen­ship through ed­u­ca­tion.

“Re­search shows that across the United States, the Ara­bic lan­guage is one of the rarest lan­guages taught in pub­lic schools,” ex­plained Char­lie Reaume, youth en­gage­ment pro­gram as­so­ciate at QFI. “We also be­lieve that when you bring kids to­gether like on this trip, stu­dents find out that they are a lot more sim­i­lar

to each other than they might have thought be­fore.”

This year’s trip, ti­tled “Aber, What’s Your Story?,” fo­cused on sto­ry­telling.

To be ad­mit­ted into the pro­gram, the stu­dents had to un­dergo a rig­or­ous se­lec­tion process, which in­cluded demon­strat­ing their writ­ten and ver­bal abil­i­ties in Ara­bic. Each day, the teens would spend the morn­ing learn­ing cru­cial com­po­nents of telling a story and pub­lic speak­ing. Then, in the af­ter­noon, Amer­i­can and Qatari stu­dents toured Doha to­gether.

Aguirre and Gal­iza have been study­ing Ara­bic at Camp­bell for the last three years, and they said the trip has helped them im­prove their com­pre­hen­sion and speak­ing abil­i­ties. It also pro­vided a first­hand look into Qatari cul­ture.

“As an Amer­i­can kid meet­ing the Qatari kids, that was a very valu­able learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me,” he said. “You get to see the life of Qatar from their per­spec­tive.”

“Notic­ing the col­lo­quial nu­ances of the lan­guage, I would say, re­ally helped with my pro­cess­ing of con­tex­tual clues while try­ing to pick up vo­cab­u­lary,” Aguirre re­called. “See­ing signs and in­struc­tions writ­ten in Ara­bic script also strongly boosted my read­ing abil­ity.”

Aguirre added that he en­joyed ex­pe­ri­enc­ing life in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try and wit­ness­ing “the dif­fi­cult but worth­while bal­ance be­tween preser­va­tion of tra­di­tion and cul­ture and rapid mod­ern­iza­tion and de­vel­op­ment.”

At the end of the week, the stu­dents left their ho­tel rooms to camp overnight in the desert out­side of Doha, which Aguirre and Gal­iza both de­clared was a high­light.

“We got to see some­thing that most tourists don’t see,” Gal­iza said.

The pro­gram ended with an Um­siyya, a tra­di­tional Ara­bic sto­ry­telling ses­sion, in which the Amer­i­can stu­dents told sto­ries in Ara­bic.

“We were so pleased and so im­pressed with how con­fi­dent the stu­dents were,” Reaume said. “It was very im­pres­sive to see the stu­dents from Amer­ica pre­sent­ing on stage in Ara­bic along­side their peers from Qatar.”

Aguirre and Gal­iza also brought a lit­tle bit of the Is­lands to Qatar dur­ing the ex­change. Gal­iza kicked it off by blow­ing a conch shell, and Aguirre played ukulele while singing in Ara­bic.

“The crowd was blown away,” Reaume said. “To see their ed­u­ca­tion com­ing to­gether in a won­der­ful per­for­mance like that re­ally was a won­der­ful feel­ing.”

Camp­bell High School stu­dents Chris­tian Gal­iza (cen­ter) and Hi­lario Al­berto Aguirre (sec­ond from right) spent a week in Doha, Qatar, learn­ing Ara­bic and tour­ing the city. They are pic­tured with Qatari stu­dents (in white) and Doha English teacher (from left) Nasser Jira, Abu Amir Gabur­talla and Camp­bell High Ara­bic teacher Adly Mirza. Photo from Chris­tian Gal­iza.

Chris­tian Gal­iza (left) opened the pro­gram’s fi­nal sto­ry­telling ses­sion by blow­ing a conch shell. Hi­lario Al­berto Aguirre (be­low) chats with one of the Qatari stu­dents in the ex­change pro­gram. Pho­tos cour­tesy Qatar Foun­da­tion In­ter­na­tional.

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