Rachel Bickauskas | St. Lawrence University Modern Languages

Rachel Bickauskas

Rachel Bickauskas
Class year: 
Niskayuna, New York
Omicron Delta Kappa, Islamic Culture Club, Library Student Research Assistant, Center for International and Intercultural Studies Peer Advisor

Majors: Mathematics, Middle East Studies (Multi-field Major: Arabic and Middle East History)

Every semester since my first semester at St. Lawrence I have taken an Arabic language class. Before I even stepped foot on campus I knew I wanted to learn Arabic and I wanted to study abroad in Amman, Jordan. The more I learned, the more I wanted to do both of these things, and eventually I added even more to that list. After taking my first semester of Arabic, I loved it so much that I decided I also wanted to learn more about the history of the Middle East and the religions that began there. I took history classes on the region and religion courses that discussed Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, simply because I wanted to know more.

As a math major, none of these related courses were counting towards my degree, so I decided to create my own Multi-field major combining my Arabic language classes with Middle East history in a larger scale version of the new Arabic Studies Minor. All of my classes and my new major increased my determination to study abroad in Jordan during my Junior Spring. Through the Jordan program I would be able to further my language skills not only through daily Arabic classes, but also by living in a community that spoke the language I was studying. For me, learning a language is also about studying the history and culture of the region that speaks that language, so I was also excited by the fact that all the classes offered on the Jordan program were about different aspects of studying the Middle East.

In Amman, I took courses on Economic Development in the Middle East and North Africa, Islamic Art, and Community Based Learning in the MENA Region in addition to Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Jordanian Arabic. While taking five classes abroad sounds like a lot of work, I ended up having the best semester of my college career during those four months. I lived with an incredible host family that took me and my roommate from the program in like we were their children as well, and we had tons of fun living with four younger siblings. Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity to learn about another culture and immerse yourself in the language.

I loved the idea of learning language through immersion so much that the summer following my study abroad experience in Amman, I applied for the Middlebury Intensive Language Summer Program, where I signed a pledge to speak only in Arabic for two months while I continued to take courses on Modern Standard Arabic and learned some Colloquial Egyptian Arabic. As a senior, I am continuing to take Arabic courses not only to build upon the language skills I have developed up to this point, but also because I love the language and I never want to stop learning it.