The "Near-East" Awaits
I had always expected my first venture into another country would be to Canada, only a brief trip by car to the north. To my delight, I am now preparing to spend ten days far across the sea, in the Republic of Lebanon, in an intensive learning experience that will take me across that country.
It was during my sophomore year that the seeds of this trip were planted. I was already a history major, but I was planning to specialize in the history of the Middle East even then. No other area of the world has fascinated me so much with its history. In many ways history could be said to have started in the countries that now exist there, dating back to the dawn of civilization and stretching across the ages to reach into the present day.
Studying that story is one of my passions, and I dreamed of seeing that land myself some day, although I thought that this would have to be sometime in the distant future.
However, I was determined to make the effort, and so taking the offered courses in Arabic was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. It was during my studies there that Nawal Bonomo, my Arabic instructor, not only taught me the language but pushed me to become involved in the BU Arabic Club and in the 2011 Model Arab League (MAL).
Model Arab League influence
The MAL proved to be an exciting and in-depth way of immersing myself in the politics and history of the Arab nations of the Middle East, and I loved the experience. The next year, I found myself to be Bloomsburg University's head delegate at the 2012 Model, which if anything was even more exciting. Throughout that time I was advised and aided by Professor Bonomo, who always pushed me to provide my best to the MAL and to my studies.
The Model Arab League was founded by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR), an organization which is dedicated to the promotion of knowledge about the Arab world. After my return from the 2012 Model, NCUSAR sent a message to Professor Bonomo asking her if she had any nominations for students to participate in an expense-paid, 10 cultural immersion trip to the Republic of Lebanon. At her urging, and with no small amount of hopeful eagerness, I applied.
The result is that the distant future has become an immediate reality; Lebanon awaits me.
The program is not a university course, but is nonetheless intense. The NCUSAR coordinators, in conjunction with the Lebanese Renaissance Foundation, have ensured that our itinerary will be packed with everything from trips to ancient sites from history, cedar forests and ancient cities, to museums and meetings with important figures to discuss everything from politics to business to the press.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and incomparable to anyone studying the Middle East.
This, of course, not even mentioning the thrill of being in another country and experiencing the new sights and smells, hearing the language, and walking upon ground that resonates with an ancient past. There is so much to anticipate that I cannot begin to list it all.
For now, MaSalama.
— Robby Nixon, junior history major