Isabel Miramontes participated in the CLS Arabic 2021 Program hosted virtually by the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco (AALIM) in Meknes, Morocco. Isabel served as a member of the U.S. Navy and graduated with a Masters in Intercultural and International Communication from American University. She plans to continue to use her Arabic language skills to foster greater connection and understanding between the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa.
Getting to Know Isabel
I was born and raised in Sacramento, California. My parents instilled in us a drive to succeed in life and an appreciation for our Mexican culture. From an early age, I had a strong desire to pursue higher education to help provide for my family. In high school, I decided to join the United States Navy. Serving my country has provided me with opportunities I never thought possible and had expanded my world-view in ways I never imagined. My love for languages grew stronger through my military service and inspired me to pursue language learning to continue to foster connections with people around the world. While there was a strong focus on English language acquisition during my childhood, my parents also always made an effort to show us the value of my heritage language and culture. They showed me that language is one of the most powerful ways to connect with the world around you.
I wanted to study Arabic because growing up I had many Arabic speaking friends and found the language to be beautiful. Also, post 9/11 sparked a hate of Arabic and a misunderstanding of the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA). I wanted to learn the language to promote it positively and find opportunities to teach others about the beauty of this region of the world. Arabic is also one of the most widely spoken languages globally. I believe if more people learned Arabic it would help to shed light on the misconceptions about Arabic language and culture.
I was surprised by the level of progress I achieved through the virtual CLS program. I felt extremely comfortable with my cohort and professors and learned so much in a short period of time. The cultural activities were really engaging, one involved making avocado juice (it was delicious!) and I now make it regularly. I also gave my language partner a tour of my city’s downtown—entirely in Arabic! It was such a rewarding experience sharing my city with my language partner who has never been to the U.S. and doing so in her native language! She really appreciated it.
Fostering Mutual Understanding
During CLS, we engaged in conversations that allowed us to express cultural and social differences. We came to mutual understanding in a safe and respectful environment. Although these conversations were between the cohort and our professors, these small wins helped us to overcome differences and have productive cross-cultural engagement. Post CLS, I have worked to communicate and educate people who are unaware of MENA and try to bridge the language gap where possible. I have also shared the value of CLS and language learning to create more connection within my community and communities abroad.
What's Next for Isabel?
I hope to work in intercultural and international spaces to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities and help them to hold on to their native language and culture. I hope to affect relations positively by creating stronger social ties between the U.S. and MENA more specifically. I plan to use my Arabic language to create a bridge between cultures and encourage a respect and greater understanding of Arabic and the MENA region globally.
Words of Advice
You only live once! Only wonderful things can come from learning a new language or improving one you already know. Apply and if you do not get into the program the first time, apply again. CLS is what you make of it, and it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Why not challenge yourself to immerse yourself in a new culture? Whether your program is virtual or in-person program, you will not regret it.
March 26, 2022