This summer, Intermediate Arabic students at UNC put their language learning to the true test of connection with a special visit from Saeed, a 34-year-old Syrian refugee and language partner from NaTakallam. NaTakallam hires displaced persons & their host community members as online tutors, teachers, translators & cultural exchange partners. Sponsored by the North Carolina Consortium for Middle East Studies, Saaed spoke for a second time with UNC students about his entire journey, from Syria to Brazil, where he ultimately settled. Students having passed the linguistic point of understanding basic events -past, present future- and are now inquiring why, considering relationships of cause and effect, and discussing solutions for cultural, economic, political and historical conflict. With help from Saeed, they gained a deeper perspective of one Syrian refugee’s journey, his challenges, successes, learned lessons, hopes, and plans for the future. Saeed left students with advice for how to best connect and support Arabic speaking refugees in North Carolina, encouraging “warmth, openness, acceptance and a willingness to help in even the smallest way.” We hope, as an Arabic department, to further connect our UNC students with the local Arabic speaking refugee population to build those important cultural and linguistic bridges.

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