Macalester students taking Arabic classes will finally be able to expand their experiences of Arabic culture while remaining on campus. With support from faculty and staff members, an Arabic House will be implemented next year in the cottage at 53 Macalester Street. The house will provide a communal living space for interested students.
Although the house is currently part of general student housing, Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards said that "there will be five students living in the Arabic House next year."
Like other language houses, there will be a resident native Arabic speaker. Students will be required to speak only Arabic, providing an opportunity for them to practice the language outside the classroom. Students living in the Arabic House will not be limited to majors; any student who is taking an Arabic class or interested in Arabic culture can be apply to live in the house. Students who live in the Arabic House will facilitate Arabic cultural activities for Macalester students and the community, such as musical performances, poetry readings and cooking.
Students interested in creating the Arabic House spoke with Professor Wessam El Meligi, Classics department Chair Andrew Overman, and Edwards, all of whom have been very supportive of the idea.
"[The creation of the Arabic House was] initiated by students, and you see a lot of support from the department," El Meligi said.
David Goldstein '16, who began learning Arabic three years prior to coming to Macalester, agreed.
"It shows two things," he said. "One is that students are really interested in Arabic. There is a tremendous increase in the last four or five years. Also, it shows that if you really want something at Macalester, you can organize with your friends and if you keep going consistently, it will happen."
An Arabic major is currently being established within the Classics department, but there is no separate Arabic department at Macalester. Around 70 students are taking Arabic courses this year, but only one professor, El Meligi, teaches the language. Courses span four different levels including elementary, intermediate, advanced and independent study. According to El Meligi, the number of professors in the program depends on how quickly the program continues to grow.
"The number of students studying Arabic is growing really fast," El Meligi said. "I mean, from 30 to more than 60 students in one year. I am very happy that the Arabic program is growing."
"[Creating the Arabic House] is a huge step towards getting an Arabic department," Goldstein added.