Throughout high school I always wanted to challenge myself further, and learning a completely new language was part of that mindset. I started learning Arabic online during high school and became fascinated with the language, particularly its many subtle rhetorical features—no two words are exact synonyms of each other. I never understood how language could be beautiful until I fell in love with Arabic. As such, before entering college, I wanted to immerse myself more in Arabic in a full-time setting.
After graduating from high school in May 2015, I decided to take a year off to complete the Dream program, a nine-month full-time Arabic intensive program at the Bayyinah Institute in Dallas, Texas. I entered the program to further explore and cultivate my Arabic language skills, which has been one of my longtime dreams. Unlike a program overseas, Dream has allowed me to learn the language from people who grew up here and followed a similar path—people whom I could relate to—rather than learning in foreign terms. In the Dream program, I am learning to linguistically analyze classical Arabic texts and appreciate the many rhetorical nuances hidden in translation while immersing in Arabic speaking, reading, writing, and listening. I hope to apply these skills to facilitate interpersonal interactions in my future career. I want to become a family practitioner, so having the ability to converse in Arabic will be beneficial due to the diverse patients I will be working with, coupled with the growing number of Arabic speakers in the US.
Being exposed to a new environment has also allowed me to reevaluate my life, my goals, and my aspirations. For instance, one of the Arabic expressions we learned in the program (which roughly translates to "Whoever fears the climbing of mountains will forever live in the ditches") has reaffirmed my belief that I will need to take risks along the way to achieve my aspirations. Attending this program has also given me the opportunity to communicate, interact, and be inspired by people from all walks of life. Being exposed to such diverse backgrounds—young and old, people from other ethnicities—has taught me to view the world from different perspectives.
The Dream program is an extremely rigorous program that has further developed my critical-thinking skills as well as my ability to reason well under pressure. Additionally, it has taught me how to be a great team player. I believe that these skills have prepared me well to be successful in college. Through this program, I am blossoming into a more mature and accountable individual, compared to a student fresh out of high school. For instance, I am already experiencing living away from home for the first time while still being able to make well-thought-out decisions. Now that I have had time for self-cultivation and intellectual exploration, I will be entering college with a unique perspective. Taking a gap year has truly been one of the best decisions of my life.
Tell us about your own gap year in the comments!