April 19, 2018 at 11:11 am

Happy Beginnings | Klimas Puts Arabic to Use with Peace Corps in Morocco

Alena Klimas in Northern Jordan 2015

Alena Klimas in Northern Jordan in 2015

Editor’s Note: The Happy Beginnings series features recent College of Arts & Sciences graduates who are getting started in careers, graduate school and service.

Born and raised in Parkersburg, W.V., Alena Klimas ’17 never thought that she would one day become a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco.

Now a Youth Development Specialist with the Peace Corps, Klimas says that her experiences with the Arabic Language program in the Linguistics Department at Ohio University played a huge role and allowed her to apply the knowledge she’d acquired during her studies. Arabic is considered a “critical language” by the U.S. State Department. Klimas also earned the Islamic Studies Certificate. and the Law, Justice & Culture Certificate.

Klimas graduated from Ohio University in May 2017 with degrees in both Global Studies and Political Science. She had originally chosen Arabic to fulfill her foreign language requirement after talking to friends and thinking about a possible future career. Klimas studied Arabic for four years, which provided several opportunities to participate in study abroad programs.

In the summer of 2015, she traveled to Amman, Jordan, where she studied history and Arabic at Al Ahliyya University.

“Some of my favorite moments were relaxing in cafes listening to artists play Oud downtown,” she said.

Studying Intensive Arabic in Morocco

A year later in summer 2016, Klimas won the Critical Language Scholarship, a State Department-sponsored program that allowed her to study intensive Arabic in Meknes, Morocco.

During that time, Klimas stayed with a Moroccan host family and became friends with many of the local people. “We hiked to nearby waterfalls and returned to Chefchaouen, dubbed the “blue city”. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited,” she recalls.

Alena Klimas hiking near Chefchaouen, also known as "the blue city"

Klimas hiking near Chefchaouen, also known as “the blue city”

Klimas was fortunate enough to return to Amman, Jordan during winter break of 2017 to conduct independent research for her Political Science Honors thesis. Klimas looks back fondly on that time.

“I visited almost every public museum in Jordan, as it was the first time really traveling on my own abroad. I distinctly remember drinking Merrimia tea, also known as sage tea.”

Through learning Arabic at Ohio University, Klimas got to interact with more international students on campus and eventually became involved with the International Student Union. She also become President of the Arabic Student Language Association.

“I remember my freshman year, my language partner was a young woman from Saudi Arabia. It struck me that there were more similarities than differences between us. Learning another language allowed me to learning another perspective. I also learned more about Islam, throwing out old stereotypes often seen in the news,” shares Klimas.

Klimas wearing a traditional Palestinian dress during Arabic Night 2016 at Ohio University

Klimas wears a traditional Palestinian dress during Arabic Night 2016 at Ohio University

For Klimas, the best part of her language learning experience was the new perspectives and opportunities it brought. After her service in the Peace Corps, Klimas plans to return to school for graduate education in the U.S. and continue her work with nonprofit projects abroad and in Appalachia. She also hopes to one day visit Lebanon, Palestine, and Tunisia, to reunite with friends made while she was an undergraduate.

“I can confidently say that studying Arabic opened many doors for me. It opened opportunities to study abroad and for jobs. But on a more personal level, it connected me to life-long friends both American and internationally.”

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