Living Through Life's Questions

As poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke says, “Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

I started studying Modern Standard Arabic in university so that I could more personally understand the realities of individuals living in Arabic speaking countries. I had not thought about how I would actualize my study into work, but I continued nonetheless because both studying Arabic and learning about the cultures of Arabic speaking countries became extremely enjoyable for me. So much so, that I decided I would dedicate my professional life to this study and to working with Arabic speaking populations.

Two years later, I find myself living in Nablus, working as an EFL fellow for and with the exact population of which I had aspired. I still question how I should tailor this work, but I recognize that being in Palestine is allowing for me to grow toward understanding and building the rest of my professional career.

Students of the STEP! II EFL program smile as they prepare to answer a question.

Students of the STEP! II EFL program smile as they prepare to answer a question.

Living the questions seems difficult anywhere, but especially in Palestine, with an employment rate of 26.6% and with significant costs compared to personal income for attending university. While many believe the answer to the question they seek may be either unreachable or all too often unemployment, other hopeful students continue to search.

My students and I are in similar situations as recent university graduates who strive to gain the necessary skills and path for their professional work. With an increased chance of being hired in Palestine if bilingual, my students recognize the importance of learning English well and quickly. As their EFL teacher, I witness their undivided commitment and dedication 16 hours a week.

The process of learning a new language is undeniably difficult. Often, my students are inundated by this difficulty, especially because their study of English does not guarantee them work. When I encounter my students questioning their purpose for studying English, I often ask them this question in reply, “Why do you chose to continue attending this English class, if you find it difficult?” The response is often, “...because I love the class and enjoy being part of the community here at TYO.” Upon hearing this response, I encourage my students to continue taking the class simply because of this love since when you live and do things wholeheartedly, you maximize your potential and can be considered successful in the process of striving toward your ultimate goal.

Searching for the answers sometimes requires teamwork!

Searching for the answers sometimes requires teamwork!

As I tell my students to follow their hearts, their dreams, and their goals, I tell myself the same exact thing. Instead of solely focusing on the ultimate goal, I need take life step-by-step by both being present and recognizing that I am here in Palestine working toward my goal.

TYO is a catalyst for each individual to build a strong foundation, to acquire necessary skills, to be challenged, and to then flourish in their own ways while allowing each individual to be given the space to fulfill their potential. As my students and I continue to live out our questions of how we will proceed in the next steps of our lives, we are without even noticing it, leading ourselves into the answer.

– Catalina, Fall 2016 EFL Fellow

The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.