Friday, February 24-Saturday, February 25
The Russian – Arabic Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) Conference, organized by the University of Arizona - Arabic Flagship Program, welcomed on Friday, February 24 and Saturday, February 25, Flagship students from Virginia Tech, accompanied by their Director and Coordinator, in addition to representatives from both the International Institute of Education (IIE) and the Language Flagship Technology Center at the University of Arizona – Student Union.
Over the course of two days, future Capstone students from both the Russian Flagship program at Virginia Tech, and the Arabic Flagship Program at the University of Arizona, learned about Project-Based Language Learning (PBLL) in preparation for their Capstone year abroad. The conference opened with Dr. Naiyi Xie Fincham, Assistant Faculty Specialist from the Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center, presenting the basics of PBLL, in addition to the project Flagship students will be working on during the conference, whether they end up in Kazakhstan or Morocco. Dr. Sonia Shiri, Director of the Arabic Flagship Program at the University of Arizona and Professor of Arabic, and Dr. Abdessamad M’Barki, Assistant Director for the Arabic Overseas Programs at the University of Arizona Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MENAS) department, shared previous PBLL projects that previous Capstone students did. Projects included a documentary, students giving speeches in fluent Arabic, and a website highlighting Moroccan women.
Flagship students from Virginia Tech and the University of Arizona huddled at their table talking about questions they had about the Capstone program. They swapped stories of their experiences in their respective programs while sharing phrases in Russian and Arabic. Students were left at the end of the first day to ponder questions posed by Dr. Fincham while enjoying their group dinner.
In the 2nd half of the conference, current Capstone students joined the conference from Morocco to share their experience about internships and their PBLL projects. Both Russian and Arabic Flagship students present at the event asked them to share honest experiences while being in Morocco.
“You will be expected to speak Arabic at any point, so you need to be prepared”, one Capstone student advised regarding linguistic expectations, “You will need to speak Darija every day.”
“Internships are less about learning to be a global professional than it is to learn about Moroccan culture and mimicking what they do”, another student shared with the Flagship students. “Sometimes you will expect to do work, as you would in the United States, but then you find yourself embroidering something, or sitting in the break room gossiping with your coworkers. Although you may think you are not learning anything, you are getting to know more about the culture and how people interact in it.”