Author Archives: Abdel Diab

Fullbright Essay

I was born and raised in Jordan. At the age of four, my dad moved to Texas due to the lack of jobs available after losing his job. My mom, despite the unimaginable toll of my father’s absence and the financial hardship, instilled determination and perseverance in me and my siblings. During my early childhood, I hated it when people asked: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” because I thought what I truly wanted was not good enough; I wanted to be a professional car racer but felt inclined to say otherwise. I knew, however, that being successful at whatever it is I decided to do in the future entails great sacrifice and strong will. I toiled to be ranked first in my class trough seventh and was tenacious to maintain that level of academic achievement throughout high school. That was the plan until we had to move to Texas. I was intimidated because not only would I have to learn a new language, I would have to adapt to a new environment and culture, which I believed would inevitably impede me from maintaining the academic achievement I sought.

Having come to Texas not knowing any English, I refused to use my lack of English knowledge as a crutch and reason to fade into the crowd; I found immutability within me. The values my mom instilled in me did not allow to simply quit. I realized that I had no control over my present, but my future is in my control, and to ensure a bright, I overcame the language barrier by stepping out of my comfort zone.

Going into high school, the confusion among freshmen was markedly worse for me. As I was still learning English (I came to the US a year before high school), colleges seemed extremely overwhelming and expensive. Having the resoluteness to become familiar with the higher education system and pave my road to college, I took rigorous classes while familiarizing myself with the admission process, swotted, and was able to bring my rank up to be among the top ten at my school.

I used to wish I had come to Texas two years earlier allowing me to be more prepared for high school. However, I am appreciative of the challenges I have faced as they sculpted my identity into a sturdier one, capable of withstanding and overcoming future obstacles. I have come to value-efficient time allocation as well as setting goals and working relentlessly towards them. Developing such valuable skills has, without a doubt, defined other areas of me and continue to help me succeed.

During my time at college, I have enjoyed my chemistry classes the most and began working as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at one of the Chemistry Department labs. Working at the lab has taught me the value of research and exploring areas in science that have never been explored before. My future aspiration is to continue pursuing my curiosity of exploring fields in chemistry that have not been before. The Fullbright Research Grant will help me overcome the financial obstacles that might stand between me and pursuing my passion.

The Role of Study Abroad in Learning a New Language


Learning a new language has been a hot subject for research in the recent years. Of the many benefits that have been identified, research has correlated higher academic achievements with learning a new language. This heightened performance includes higher standardized test scores and better reading abilities. Research has also found improved cognitive abilities with learning a new language and correlated higher intelligence with bilingualism. Not only that, but research suggests that language learners develop a more positive attitude toward the target language or the speakers of that language. All of these findings support the claim that learning foreign languages shapes an intelligent, empathetic citizen of the world.

The benefits of learning a new language, however, come with a great cost; learning a new language requires major time allocation and dedication. Even then, learning a new language can be very difficult because it requires our brains to construct a new cognitive framework. Research from MIT suggests that the reason it is so much harder for adults to learn a new language than kids is because adults tend to over-analyze hindering their ability to pick up a foreign language’s subtle nuances.

While learning a new language is not by any means an easy process – nothing truly worthwhile is – it is definitely enjoyable and rewarding. While our brains will never be as plastic as kids’ brains, we can be as curious as them. In order to achieve that level of curiosity, one has to be immersed in a foreign environment. This unique exposure forces our brains to become adept at constructing new cognitive framework which is optimal for the facilitation of learning a new language. Going on a study abroad program combines language learning with travel and cultural immersion making it the ideal method for effectively learning a foreign language.

While studying abroad is ideal for learning a new language, like any other experience, the fruits cannot be reaped by simply going through the program; they are reaped through stepping out of one’s comfort zone and making peace with being unfamiliar with the culture and language. With the right mindset and commitment, one can further optimize the benefits of the study abroad program by practicing certain methods and making good use of helpful tips.  The main and most important method is setting clear and realistic goals and following through with them. The goal could be as simple as having at least one complete conversation everyday with someone other than the host family, which is a good prompt to try to talk to new people and say something more than just your food order or ask how much something costs. Another very useful method to make the best out of the program meeting with language partners through local universities allowing students to immerse further into the culture.

There are many other methods such as getting involved in the community and volunteering. However, the most important factor of it all is having a positive attitude and being willing to make mistakes. After all, the long-term goal of mastering the foreign language is what matters; it takes commitment and overcoming failure or embarrassment.



Works Cited

Peal, E., & Lambert, W. E. (1962). The relation of bilingualism to intelligence. Psychological Monographs, 76(27, Whole No. 546), 23. from PsycINFO database.

Armstrong, P. W., & Rogers, J. D. (1997). Basic skills revisited: The effects of foreign language instruction on reading, math, and language arts. Learning Languages, 2(3), 20-31.

Bamford, K. W., & Mizokawa, D. T. (1989). Cognitive and attitudinal outcomes of an additive-bilingual program. U.S.; Washington:  ED305826

Kessler, C., & Quinn, M. E. (1980). Positive effects of bilingualism on Science problem-solving abilities. In J. Alatis (Ed.), Georgetown  Universityround table on languages and linguistics (pp. 295-308). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, from Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database.


שלום عليكم

My name is Abdel Diab. I was born and raised in Jordan and I moved to the United States when I was thirteen. My family currently lives in Dallas, Texas. My passion lies at the intersection of healthcare and business. I am currently a Sophomore majoring in either Business or Economics and on the pre-med track. My continuous pursuit of learning new languages is a product of my passion for learning about other cultures. Language is the best mode for accessing the deeper parts of culture that are not as accessible otherwise. Outside of school, my hobbies are weightlifting and soccer.  

Foreign Language and Liberal Arts

The study of liberal arts shapes the students’ abilities to learn and critically think for a lifetime. What is unique about liberal arts education is that it enriches the student’s mind with different varieties of courses to make them adaptable to different rather than following a strict rubric of courses to prepare for a certain career.

What makes the liberal arts education invaluable is the broad range of knowledge and the appreciation of diversity students develop. Therefore, being educated in one different culture is essential to having pride in appreciating diversity. Moreover, the exposure of students to different cultures is crucial to improve students’ adaptability. Because of that, learning a new language is out of the question when it comes to getting a valuable liberal art degree because one is not only learning the language, but is also learning about the culture. The cultural aspect of liberal arts is a key component of a well-rounded undergraduate degree. Without the exposure to a different language, being educated in a different culture or being diverse is less likely.

Learning a new language equips the mind with new lens to view the world from a different perspective. When learning a new language, a student is challenged to express themselves with the limited vocabulary that they have learned. Also, most of the introductory language courses incorporate culture into the course exposing the student to a new environment and perspective. As the student advances in the language courses, they begin to incorporate more complex forms of expression that the language has, such as idioms and metaphors. As the advancement continues, they dive deeper into the culture and begin to understand and recognize different patterns of expression in different cultures. Through such experiences, a student gets the chance to view the world from a new angle and recognize the differences in the ways people conceive experience.

While the study of liberal and cultures through texts in English provides some knowledge about cultures, it is unequivocally secondhand knowledge. Learning a language provides a more in-depth understanding of the culture that is unmatched through English. While liberal arts courses train the mind to think critically, language learning does so in a unique way that exposes the mind to different perspectives that cannot be accomplished otherwise.

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Percentage of Americans who speak more than one language