Critical Language Scholarship Program | Heba Haleem
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Heba Haleem

Heba Haleem is an alum­na of the 2018 CLS Ara­bic pro­gram in Mek­nes, Moroc­co. She has a bachelor’s degree in Anthro­pol­o­gy from Brown Uni­ver­si­ty and is cur­rent­ly an M.D. can­di­date at Brown University’s Alpert Med­ical School, where she’s spear­head­ing an Intro­duc­tion to Med­ical Ara­bic pre-clin­i­cal course. Heba loves going on food expe­di­tions, eat­ing cook­ie dough ice cream, read­ing thrillers, and bak­ing. In fact, if she weren’t work­ing toward becom­ing a doc­tor, Heba would open up a bakery.

A Cross-cul­tur­al Upbringing

I have a meshed cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty: I was born in Texas and grew up in in the dusty sub­urbs of Ari­zona, and have also lived in Pak­istan for two years, where my par­ents emi­grat­ed from. I still have fam­i­ly in Pak­istan, so it is very close to my heart and I love vis­it­ing every chance I get. 

My CLS host fam­i­ly had lots of ques­tions about my com­mu­ni­ty back home. Specif­i­cal­ly, when they saw that I wear the head­scarf and am a Mus­lim, they were curi­ous about the way Islam is prac­ticed in the Unit­ed States. I shared many anec­dotes with my host fam­i­ly about what it’s like, such as how het­ero­ge­neous Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties are in the US unlike those in Moroc­co, where every­one in the mosque is main­ly Moroccan.

Devel­op­ing a Desire to Study Arabic

Many Mus­lims may empathize with me when I say that I was first exposed to Ara­bic dur­ing Quran Sun­day school as a five-year-old. I could read Ara­bic but didn’t under­stand it one bit, so in col­lege, I decid­ed I want­ed to study and learn to speak col­lo­qui­al Ara­bic. Before going on the CLS Pro­gram, I stud­ied abroad in Jor­dan where I stud­ied the indi­vid­ual ther­a­peu­tic process­es of Syr­i­an refugee women. This project showed me that speak­ing Ara­bic would make me a bet­ter researcher and doc­tor among the pop­u­la­tions that I want to work with, such as refugees here in the Unit­ed States.

In the future, I want to work with Ara­bic-speak­ing refugee pop­u­la­tions to help them get qual­i­ty health­care despite the socioe­co­nom­ic and cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers. Ara­bic will allow me to con­nect with this pop­u­la­tion and build trust.

Although it can be a chal­leng­ing lan­guage at times and takes ded­i­ca­tion, Ara­bic is one of those lan­guages that real­ly push­es you to think and expe­ri­ence in a way that Eng­lish does­n’t. Its gram­mar is com­plex yet prac­ti­cal, its vocab­u­lary chal­leng­ing yet enlight­en­ing. Ara­bic will open beau­ti­ful new doors for you. I encour­age you to come on in!

A Mem­o­rable Holiday

Eid is a very spe­cial hol­i­day for Mus­lims around the world, filled with food, fun, and cel­e­bra­tion. My host mom was so sweet and want­ed me to have the full Moroc­can Eid expe­ri­ence. So the day before Eid, she took me out to these beau­ti­ful lit up tents where women were get­ting hen­na done, which was a mag­i­cal expe­ri­ence! Eid day itself was filled with cook­ies, tea and cof­fee, and many guests vis­it­ing the house. For lunch we had cous­cous and for din­ner tagine. The FIFA World Cup was going on and it hap­pened that Moroc­co was play­ing that day, so I went with my host mom’s nephew to a café, bustling with the Moroc­can youth, to watch the game. It was excit­ing to be able to expe­ri­ence how a Moroc­can fam­i­ly cel­e­brates Eid!


CLS Alum­ni Ambas­sadors are recent CLS par­tic­i­pants who take lead­er­ship roles as active and pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the CLS Pro­gram by engag­ing with CLS alum­ni and rep­re­sent­ing the pro­gram to var­i­ous audi­ences. If you would like to get in touch with a CLS Alum­ni Ambas­sador, please con­tact clsalumni@​americancouncils.​org


Alumni Profiles

Heba Haleem
Heba Haleem
Arabic 2018
Meknes, Morocco

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Posted Date

May 06, 2019