TYO CORE TEACHER AND VOLUNTEER ALUMNI: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Mohammad Abulkibash was a volunteer at TYO and a Core Child Teacher since Spring 2012. This past fall, Mohammad embarked on a journey to the United States through the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program (FLTA). Having visited the US before as a TYO ambassador, attending CGI-U, Mohammad was excited to return - this time to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. Mohammad shares his experiences as a Fulbright scholar and gives advice to Palestinian youth.
Please explain your program and what you're studying.
I am currently enrolled in the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program. This program enables young educators to perfect their teaching skills, increase their English language proficiency, and learn more about the cultures and customs of the United States while engaging in non-degree studies at accredited post-secondary U.S. educational institutions. I’m currently taking several courses in the field of education teaching methodologies. FLTAs also serve as cultural representatives, attendants in language laboratories, coordinators of extra-curricular activities, guest speakers in civilization courses, and head's of language clubs.
Why were you motivated to do this Fulbright program?
Initially I was interested in the Fulbright program as I saw it as an opportunity to go abroad and participate in an exchange program. I was particularly interested in traveling to America, as I believe it to be the country of freedom and justice.
What have you learned about America so far?
Each day since arriving in America I am learning new things about the United States. I’ve learned a lot about the American people and find them to be really nice and friendly. I’ve learned about the culture and the holidays, specifically how Americans celebrate their holydays in a very respectful way. In addition I’ve learned about American sports and how the people are addicted to football. But the most important thing I’ve learned about America is how the country accepts and welcomes people from all over the world regardless of their nationality or color.
What have you learned about yourself so far?
I believe that the USA is the right place to find yourself and truly discover your interests. In America, I am free to do what I like, not what others tell me to do, so everyday I spend in the U.S I learn more about myself. For example, before I came to U.S I never imagined that I could be helping to teach classes in such a large university like Florida State University. Further, through organizing a cultural event for over two hundred people I discovered leadership skills I never knew I had. Recently I’ve even discovered that I am a sociable guy and meeting new people is the best thing in my life.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your program?
I was really overwhelmed when I first arrived in America. It was really intimidating traveling to a place I’d never been, having little idea of what to expect. I didn’t know anything about the nature of the students or the level of diversity. Fortunately I settled in quickly, but the next major challenge was starting my job as a Teacher’s Assistant. In that role, the main challenge was how to build a good rapport with my students especially given that we are from two different cultures. I needed to learn how to keep my students motivated to learn Arabic- especially given what a challenging language it is to learn.
What has surprised you the most about the experience?
This might sound silly, but the biggest surprise for me, coming from the Middle East, has been observing the weather in Florida. Nobody told me that in Florida it rains during the summer and that in Florida, it’s not just drops of rain, but heavy, heavy showers- so heavy that you feel as if you’re standing under Niagara Falls.
What do you miss the most about Nablus?
The first though that comes to mind are the kids at TYO. I really miss working with children in Nablus and the staff at TYO. The staff at TYO are the only ones who truly believe in me and support me- it is thanks to them that my dreams are coming true.
What's your dream after Fulbright?
I am very excited to finish my Fulbright program and go back home to Nablus to share my experience with all the youth there. I really want to continue my dream and work in the field of education and start a new era in education. In addition, I’d like to open my own center for education and curriculum development because I believe that education is the one and only hope for the Palestinian people.
What advice would you give to other Palestinian youth like yourself?
People have to believe in themselves and need to chase their dreams. Nothing is impossible. Lastly, people need to understand that they have to work hard and to be committed to their society.