Margo spent nine weeks in Ibri, Oman studying Arabic at the Noor Majan Training Institute. There she attended intensive Arabic language courses that improved both her written grammar and spoken conversation skills. In addition, she was given the opportunity to have a native Omani student, Nadra, as a language partner twice every week. She loved the time she got to spend with Nadra and her family, her professors, and the owners of the institute. They truly created a family away from home for her and offered constant, cultural learning experiences. Sure, the relationships weren’t like those that she had in America, but they were strong connections. Nadra now considers Margo her sister and Nadra’s mother even calls Margo her daughter. Margo also took several weekend excursions to places throughout Oman. This included the capital city of Muscat, the desert Sharqiyah region, and an Omani village. During those excursions, Margo hiked Wadi Shab, climbed a sand dune, rode a camel, and spoke to several residents. She wouldn’t trade this experience for the world and cannot wait to share what she has learned and study the language and culture further, in the future.
CEE Title: Mind the Gap: Building Cross-Cultural Understanding at RMU
I, along with the other Robert Morris Vira I. Heinz 2018 awardees, developed a CEE that focused on a prominent issue that exists on our campus. Over ten percent of our student population consists of international students, yet very few American students interact with students from outside of the U.S. While abroad, all of us awardees felt very welcomed in our study abroad countries. In particular, my language partner and the owners of the institute I was studying at in Oman made me feel as if I had a family away from home. We wanted to bring that same environment to our own campus. It is important that international students feel welcomed and accepted at Robert Morris. In order to address this issue, we first presented a video featuring testimonies from international students. They took time to explain their experience so far on our campus. After a somewhat chilling acknowledgement of their descriptions of feeling unwelcomed, we quickly described our pleasant experiences in Hungary, Argentina, and Oman. After setting the mood and theme, we further described this “gap” that exists at Robert Morris both in a literal and metaphorical sense. This description took place in the form of a story. The literal story was about an individual taking a trip by train, and the metaphorical story described a student’s journey on campus. After our story, we highlighted ways in which students can begin reaching out and learning from others different than themselves. Opening this conversation up to roundtable discussion following the formal presentation really allowed students and faculty to brainstorm their own ideas and begin getting to know each other. After all, change always begins on a smaller scale.