“Hello, my name is Caroline and I am a second-year university student from the United States. At university, I study Arabic and I have always hoped of becoming involved in the refugee crisis. Therefore, when I found the Excellence Center program that offered me the opportunity to improve my language skills and tutor refugees, I could not resist coming to Halle.
From the moment I arrived in Halle, the workers and students at the Excellence Center have been more than welcoming. I was greeted at the train station by one of my students, who always has a smile on his face, and he took me to the center to meet Rafat. Rafat, the manager of the Excellence Center, has been incredible by organizing activities within Halle and making sure I feel as at home as possible while here.
Although I have had little experience in tutoring English, Rafat gave me a few guidelines on how to effectively tutor. The welcoming environment of the Excellence Center has made tutoring easier and not stressful. The most rewarding part of volunteering at the Excellence Center is the opportunity to meet so many people and hear each one of their stories. Each student that I have taught is resilient and has a passion to learn the English language. I have a lot of admiration for every individual I have met during my time at the Excellence Center.
As most would be, I was nervous about staying with a host family, but my host family welcomed me with open arms. Since I am a beginner at the Arabic language, and my host mom is a beginner in English, communication took a lot of effort, but communication was able to be accomplished. From making signals and noises, we were able to make our points, and being immersed in the Arabic language was a beneficial experience for me. Also, my host family introduced me to their other family members that live in Halle, as well as their friends. At night, we would even go walking around the center of Halle together.
Another incredible experience I was able to have while volunteering at the Excellence Center was meeting another family and going to their house for a home visit. There, the family graciously offered me sweets, bread, chicken, coffee, and anything else within their home that they could. As we sat together on their home sofa, they shared with me about how much they love Damascus, how they miss their real home, and showed me pictures of the city of Damascus too. Being able to hear their life stories and their dreams for the future was astonishing.
I am extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to work at the Excellence Center in Halle, met the incredible people who work and come to the center, that I have improved my Arabic skills, and been able to hear the stories of the people at the Excellence Center. In the future, I hope to come back to the Excellence Center and continue to tutor and visit with some of the students I had the opportunity to meet this year.”