Critical Language Scholarship Program | Sheen Atwa
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Sheen Atwa

Sheen Atwa is an alum­nus of the 2016 CLS Ara­bic pro­gram in Tang­i­er, Moroc­co. He is cur­rent­ly a sopho­more at Geor­gia State Uni­ver­si­ty Perime­ter Col­lege major­ing in polit­i­cal sci­ence and for­eign lan­guages. He is also a 2016 – 2017 fel­low for the Nation­al Net­work of Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties. Sheen con­nects with his cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty by cook­ing Egypt­ian food, play­ing the dara­booka (Egypt­ian drum), and lis­ten­ing to Arab music. 

Why Ara­bic?

I was raised in a mul­ti-eth­nic and inter­faith fam­i­ly with a Mus­lim father, who is an immi­grant from Egypt, and a Roman Catholic Amer­i­can moth­er. Even though I was not taught Ara­bic grow­ing up, I was sur­round­ed by Ara­bic food, cul­ture, and music. Learn­ing Ara­bic was a gate­way to recon­nect to my her­itage and fam­i­ly. Being able to com­mu­ni­cate at an advanced lev­el allows me to explore my cul­ture in a myr­i­ad of ways that I nev­er real­ized exist­ed before. Addi­tion­al­ly, due to my plans to con­cen­trate aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly and pro­fes­sion­al­ly in North Africa, my choice to learn Ara­bic not only becomes a high­ly sought-after career skill, but an invest­ment in my future. 

Pro­found Moments

One of the most endear­ing and immer­sive expe­ri­ences I had in Moroc­co was cel­e­brat­ing the iftar (break­ing of the fast dur­ing Ramadan) in a city called Chefchaouen. The oth­er stu­dents and I had explored the city the entire day and most of us were fast­ing. We went to the mar­ket for dates, bread, and cheese to break the fast with, which is at sun­down, then hiked to the top of a small moun­tain over­look­ing the amaz­ing city. We were then joined by a host of young Moroc­cans who were also wait­ing to break the fast. We all gath­ered and shared food togeth­er and enjoyed some beau­ti­ful music being played by some of the oth­er peo­ple there. This taught me the over­ar­ch­ing aspect of human­i­ty, cul­ture, and lan­guage as well as the friend­li­ness and hos­pi­tal­i­ty that is often found in the Mid­dle East, regard­less of what we some­times hear in the Unit­ed States. 

Shar­ing Knowledge

Being an Amer­i­can Mus­lim gave me oppor­tu­ni­ties that not only ben­e­fit­ed the intro­duc­tion of Amer­i­can soci­ety and cul­ture to Moroc­cans from a Muslim’s per­spec­tive, but also assist­ed in trans­lat­ing Islam­ic cul­ture to the oth­er Amer­i­can stu­dents who were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­gram with me. I often aid­ed in explain­ing nuances of Arab and Islam­ic cul­ture to my col­leagues on the trip to help them under­stand the cul­tur­al and reli­gious mores. 

Words of Wisdom

Do not be afraid of Arabic’s dif­fi­cul­ty. If you are inter­est­ed in study­ing Ara­bic, you are already halfway done, because most of learn­ing this lan­guage is dedication. 


Alumni Profiles

Sheen Atwa
Sheen Atwa
Arabic 2016
Tangier, Morocco

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Posted Date

March 28, 2017