The Excellence Center in Palestine
The Excellence Center in Palestine Programs
Many exciting opportunities are waiting just for you in Palestine! You can do volunteer work, learn Arabic and live the daily life of an ordinary Palestinian. The Excellence...
The Excellence Center in Palestine Reviews
My time in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine
Submitted by Jana - - | July 05, 2017
As Palestine was the first Arab country that I’ve been to, this was the first time for me to experience daily life in the Muslim culture. I knew a lot of things from theory or Arab friends in Germany, but apart from that a lot of things were new to me. I was surprised about how friendly, interested and open most people around here are towards strangers. It seems almost impossible to enter a Palestinian’s home without constantly being offered food. The hospitality can even become a bit of a struggle if you really don’t want that third serving or another dessert or the fifth cup of coffee.
I was a bit concerned about the security situation and about not being able to walk around freely at all or experiencing incidents between Palestinians and soldiers on the streets. But I felt safe and walking around Hebron during daytime turned out to not be a problem at all. There are a lot of cheap taxis as well, in case you don’t want to walk. Knowing the directions in Arabic or having someone write them down for you in Arabic helps a lot to avoid confusion as just a few of the drivers know English well enough. I was surprised that traveling inside Palestine was not an issue at all.
Anywhere I’ve went so far, service drivers and people on the streets were very considerate and always ready to help when I didn’t know how to get from A to B and happy to practice their English with me. Also traveling to Israel for the weekend is considerably easy when going through Jerusalem.
I didn’t really know what to expect from work at the Excellence Center and how my weeks would look like. I was positively surprised by the relaxed and friendly relationship between the volunteers and the teachers. Sitting together for breakfast or coffee between classes in the kitchen or on the rooftop has become something I am looking forward to every day. A lot of times I help the teachers with English classes in the center or go to high schools in nearby villages where I teach together with another volunteer.
Additionally, I did one-on-one conversational classes with older students at the Center. Almost all students are always very excited about the foreigners and during the breaks, they come to say hi, shake your hand or take pictures together.
I would not have thought that so many people here are so passionate and motivated about learning English. What also surprised me was that volunteers are able to prepare a lot of the classes on their own for the most part. Even though it is nice to be free in choosing exercises and teaching methods, I think sometimes it would be good for the students if there was more planning together with their teachers for the sake of consistency.
During my stay, I came to appreciate the hospitality of the Palestinians and their interest in foreign countries and cultures. At the same time, I noticed that being a foreign woman in a traditional Muslim country can become difficult at times. Whenever being shouted at by men on the street or getting marriage proposals by host family members I realized the cultural differences the most.
Before I came here I would not have thought that I would be confronted with behavior like this on an almost daily basis. It would have been helpful for me if I had heard about this beforehand. Being told about the status women here and about how to best behave around men might prevent a lot of misunderstandings and irritations in the long run.
I do believe that volunteering with the Excellence Center and living with a host family gives volunteers a unique opportunity to dive into the Palestinian culture and learn spoken Arabic while contributing to the community of Hebron. The two days off during the week are a perfect amount of time to travel around the area and explore Palestine together with other volunteers. The best recommendation that I can give to future volunteers is to take any chance to engage with the locals, try to speak as much Arabic as possible and ask questions if you’re curious about certain things. You might be surprised about their openness and their generosity.
At the same time being able to clearly communicate when you don’t feel comfortable with something and to not be afraid of insulting them by not accepting every offer or piece of advice is just as important in order for you to make the best of your time here in Palestine.
My experience in the West Bank
Submitted by Brenda | June 29, 2017
At the Excellence Center I participated in three major types of activities. I organised professional workshops for university students, helping them refine skills such as academic writing and interview tactics and also ran activities sessions for younger students based on topics like Ramadan. Finally, I assisted in lessons for Beginners English. The Center also offers around three hours of Arabic classes per week. I really enjoyed these, and feel that they improved my confidence with Palestinian dialect. It would have been great if I had been here for longer and got more of a chance to practice the language, but I only stayed for a month.
The environment at the Center is very relaxed and friendly, both among local teachers and international volunteers. Things can be a little chaotic and disorganised, but I think some of that can be ascribed to the timing of my visit – Ramadan is a very hard month to arrange lessons in, and student attendance is hard to enforce. I very much felt that the staff at the Center would help me with any problems I might be having, to the extent of lending me money when my card broke - a level of kindness I by no means expected.
I went on site visits to Ibrahim’s Oak, the Old City and the Camel Sandal’s factory. All of these were incredibly interesting. It would have been nice to have the opportunity to visit and support more Palestinian businesses! In my spare time at the Excellence Center, I also visited the Dead Sea, Jericho, Tel Aviv and Nazareth. As transport in the West Bank is so easy to use, it was relatively simple to see a huge amount of the country, even though I wasn’t here for very long. I really loved exploring different parts of the region, and learning more about life here from the people I met.
Life in Hebron is very different to life in a European city, but not totally alien. You can find most things in shops in the city, and in general it’s an easy city to get around, despite the lack of reliable street signs. Palestinian people are welcoming and interested in visitors to a degree that I found surprising at first. It is generally a wonderful thing to experience though – a simple walk home can lead to you gaining a new friend, which would never happen in Britain.
I personally felt very secure while living in Hebron, to the point that I was perfectly comfortable walking around at night. However this might have been because I was here during Ramadan, so the streets always felt friendly and crowded. My one complaint would be that by the end of my stay, I was fed up with the male attention. I felt that there was a perception among a minority of men that I would welcome their advances, whereas in reality, it was always uncomfortable and occasionally a real invasion of my boundaries.
My favourite thing about Palestine is a mixture of the landscape and the people. Travelling around by bus or taxi, I never got tired of looking out of the window and dreaming of all the things this land has seen throughout the centuries. One memory I particularly treasure from my time here is my arrival at the Damascus Gate on my first day in the country. I was tired and lost, and a very kind man not only showed me the way to the bus station, but bought me breakfast for the journey. Nothing could have given me a better demonstration of the kind of hospitality I could expect from my stay here.
Overall my time in the West Bank has been extraordinary. I feel like I have been offered so much during my stay: people have shared their stories, their time and their food in the most unimaginably generous way. I feel honoured to have experienced all I have experienced.
Arabic in Palestine
Submitted by Sally - Orlando United States | June 16, 2017
Studying Arabic has definitely been the highlight of my stay in Palestine. At first, I was studying Arabic for 3 hours a week. I really enjoyed the gradual progress to the point where I was able to engage in basic interactions for my daily life.
I’d been enjoying learning Arabic so much that I felt I wanted to make the most of learning in an immersive environment. I moved over to the intensive Arabic programme, which I’ve been participating in for the last 3 weeks. I’ve noticed a massive improvement and have reached the point where I can interact in basic conversations. The teaching is excellence, my teacher often asks for feedback as to whether I am enjoying my lessons and whether I have any ideas for improvement.
The teachers are always willing to help you and the Excellence centre benefits from a relaxed family atmosphere, making students feel very at home. The staff and teachers are always willing to help. During my time here I’ve visited villages on the outskirts of Hebron as well as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho and the Dead Sea. The Centre organises trips in Hebron, I’ve visited a glass blowing factory, keffiyeh factory and a church.
My favourite thing about Palestine is it’s people. I’ve been staggered by the lengths that the people here in Hebron will go to make you feel welcome. I’ve visited a student’s home and fed until I thought I would burst. On another occasion, I was lost, and after explaining my problem to a local man, was promptly led by the hand to my destination.
Overall I’ve loved my time at the Centre. I really value the chance to contribute to Palestinian society, and I’ve made strong friendships. I hope to return one day soon.
My time teaching English in Palestine
Submitted by Emma - London United Kingdom | June 15, 2017
During my time in Palestine I participated both in the TESA programme and the intensive Arabic programme. As a qualified teacher of English as a foreign language. I wanted to put my skills to good use, whilst at the same time using the opportunity to experience Palestinian culture and receive tuition in the local dialect.
As a native English speaker I found helping to develop the student’s understanding of such useful and global language extremely rewarding. It makes such a difference to their future prospects and careers. I’ve developed close bonds with many of the students, found them eager to learn, and will really miss my time spent teaching in Palestine.
I taught both regular and conversational classes at the Excellence Centre, at the local University, at a local girls schools and in a village just outside of Hebron.
Overall I loved my time in Palestine and at the Excellence Center in Hebron
Learning ِArabic language and its culture in Palestine
Submitted by John - New York City United States | May 19, 2017
Hi, my name is John, I’m 24 years old, and I am from the United States. I studied colloquial Arabic at the Excellence for a month in the spring of 2017. Five days a week, every day, I had class from 8:30 in the morning until noon. At the center, I also ate breakfast together with other students, volunteers, and the staff and I sometimes participated in tours offered by the program.
I have found my Arabic lessons to be really great, and the ability to have one-on-one tutoring has been invaluable. Coming from a background where I already possessed knowledge of another Arabic dialect, being able to customize the lessons to my needs was absolutely essential. A variety of approaches were used in order to help me learn the language, including listening and writing to stories, integrating vocabulary into my speech, watching videos, discussing the news, and more. I definitely noticed a strong improvement in my command of the Palestinian dialect.
The environment at the Center is very welcoming. The staff are all kind and friendly, and also willing to help you out with Arabic, information about Palestine, or anything else. The other students and volunteers are all engaged in what they do, and are excited about being in Palestine. Overall, this makes for a great ambiance at the center. With the center, I was able to visit a keffiyeh factory and a ceramics/glass factory. Additionally, I went to the old city with someone recommended from the center. All of these experiences I will definitely not forget!
In my time in Palestine, I was also able to visit Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. The West Bank is relatively small and easy to get around. It is definitely worth taking advantage of your time here in order to explore other cities outside of Hebron. With that being said, life in Hebron can be quite special. The people are incredibly hospitable and tolerant. People are open to discussing many subjects with you, and are often excited to meet foreigners.
I did feel safe in Palestine. While caution should always be taken, if one is smart and aware of their surroundings, one should feel secure here. What I like most about Palestine is the people--their hospitality, talking with them, and learning about their culture. This includes learning more about their food, politics, and traditions. I will definitely leave Palestine and its people with a bit of sadness, and recall them fondly in the time to come.
Overall, I would definitely recommend staying at the Excellence Center in Palestine to people searching to learn Arabic. It is a great chance to immerse yourself in the language and discover a new culture in a secure and friendly environment. I, for one, do not regret it!
Comments/Suggestions: I wish to note that I really enjoyed my experience here and think overall things are great, but I will offer some constructive criticism nonetheless. The center’s laid-back and welcoming nature are fantastic; sometimes, though, things can seem unclear perhaps due to this (which personally doesn’t bother me, to be honest). While I am happy to go with the flow, other people might find it more disconcerting that, say, it is not clear what exactly happens when arriving to the center for the first time. For example, I came and waited for an hour before someone came, and even then I didn’t know exactly where I’d be living, when I’d start lessons, etc. Conveying this message in email before arrival would make more sense, I think (which would perhaps require a more exact time of arrival on the part of the participant).