For the first time since before the pandemic, seven students were able to participate in a two-week-long trip to Nizwa, Oman. Thanks to the opportunity provided by the Department of Languages, Cultures, & Literatures (LCL), students deepened their connection to the Arabic language and culture.

Oman Marketplace
The entrance to a market in Oman.

As one of the oldest cities in Oman, Nizwa was once a hub for trade, religion, education, and art. With such a rich history, the students on the trip benefitted from the abundance of cultural experiences that Nizwa provided each day.

Janice Biondo, an undergraduate student at LCL, could not pass up the opportunity to travel abroad.

“I wanted to improve my Arabic and experience living in an Arab country and experience the culture, food, and people up close and firsthand," Biondo said. "There's no substitute for studying the language in a country where the target language is spoken.” 

When they weren’t in Arabic class at the Daaris Institute, students explored the city’s markets, museums, and traditional mountain irrigation systems and participated in cooking classes.

“I loved having language partners and the cultural events in addition to the class instruction," said Biondo. "It really helped us understand the language, culture, and people so much more."

These trips allow students to improve their language skills while deepening their understanding of cultures worldwide.

The hands-on nature of these trips gives students access to new elements of their education that are not available in a traditional classroom.

“After taking three semesters of Arabic, I felt like I needed to fully immerse myself to reach the next level in my language learning journey,” said Adrienne Paternoster, an undergraduate in International Studies with a concentration in the Middle East. “Experiencing the language and culture first-hand has confirmed my aspirations of becoming a foreign service officer with a focus on the Arab World. I plan on continuing my Arabic language journey long after my time at UNM ends.” 

Beyond benefiting academically from studying abroad, students also had the opportunity to experience the culture firsthand.

“Throughout the two weeks, I witnessed what it felt like to live in a high-functioning society: The streets were clean, I felt safe walking around at night, trustworthiness was an innate characteristic shared amongst the town, and the people were simply incredible,” said Paternoster.

Adrienne Paternoster
International Studies undergraduate student Adrienne Paternoster.

Associate Professor of Arabic Emma Trentman organized the trip to Oman and explained how she hoped participating in these experiences would nurture students’ confidence in traveling abroad for longer periods.

“Language learning offers many opportunities, including enhanced participation in study abroad programs like this one," said Trentman. "I encourage all UNM students to study languages and study abroad. There are also many scholarship opportunities to fund participation in study abroad opportunities.” 

Prior to the pandemic, LCL offered these experiences a few times a year. Now that students can travel safely, the department is working hard to offer more immersive experiences like this again.

This May, students can participate in the Provence Summer Abroad trip, where they will spend two-and-a-half weeks traveling between Provence, France, and Paris, France. This will be the second time they’ve been able to provide this experience, where students will get to visit Roman and French sites.

“I encourage everyone to study abroad," Paternoster said. "This trip with Dr. Emma Trentman has truly changed my perspective of the world.”