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CCU Atheneum: Salma Oubkkou, a Fulbright Scholar teaching Arabic at CCU while completing work for her graduate degree.
Salma Oubkkou, a Fulbright Scholar teaching Arabic at CCU while completing work for her graduate degree.

Salma Oubkkou continues both Fulbright tradition and Arabic offerings at CCU

by Sarah Mulready
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When Salma Oubkkou left Morocco and arrived at Coastal Carolina University in August 2018, it was the first time she had set foot in the United States. It was also CCU’s initial venture into the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) program.

As a Fulbright FLTA, Oubkkou teaches classes while continuing her studies toward a Ph.D. as a graduate student at CCU. The goal of the prestigious Fulbright program is to allow students, scholars and educators to exchange new global perspectives and break down geographic and cultural barriers. Oubkkou is taking full advantage of both the learning and the teaching dimensions of her position.

“America is the door for me, the only chance for me to grow up in the world,” said Oubkkou. “When I came here, I was eager to share my culture. That was my first aim.”

Oubkkou is currently teaching intermediate Arabic and will teach Beginning Arabic II in the spring. In addition, she shares her knowledge and insights on her culture by presenting to classes and organizations.

In regard to teaching Arabic, Oubkkou explained, “Everyone says it’s difficult, but I take it as a challenge. That’s the adventure. They start getting familiar with me and interacting, and then they start to understand. I bring them Moroccan objects and we study with it. Sometimes I bring them Arabic cakes.”

Oubkkou’s students have had many positive experiential learning moments within the classroom, from performing plays in Arabic to Skyping Moroccan students.

“I organized two Skype meetings with Moroccan students,” said Oubkkou. “My brother is a teacher of English and I am a teacher of Arabic here, so his students practiced English and my students practiced Arabic. They found out that ‘Hey, we’re not different. We’re the same!’”

Darla Domke-Damonte, associate provost for Global Initiatives and former Fulbrighter herself, said the Arabic classes have been “very positively” embraced by the student population, and individual students have found immediate connections with those in the Moroccan culture.

“One of my students is good in music,” said Oubkkou. “He showed them his Instagram. Now he’s talking with Moroccan students. He’s so happy. He talks all the time with them. The students were saying ‘Thank you. Thank you. We’ve never had the chance; it feels like we are in Morocco.’”

By teaching and sharing Arabic language and culture, Oubkkou is continuing a tradition started last year by Mimouna Zitouni, CCU’s first Fulbright Scholar in Residence. Thanks to the groundbreaking work of Tripthi Pillai, associate professor in the Department of English and coordinator of the Arts and Humanities Global Experiences Program, Zitouni came from Algeria and taught beginner Arabic and English classes during her yearlong residency. This marked the first time in CCU history that Arabic classes were offered to students.

Oubkkou recently presented “The Journey of the Moroccan Woman and the Legitimacy of Hope after the Arab Spring” at an event sponsored by the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies. In her lecture, Oubkkou explained the progression that Morocco has made toward gender equality. Because of this movement, Oubkkou articulated, “I want to make my voice heard as a woman. I’m here talking about my country’s women.”

The Fulbright program offers more than just educational exchange, Oubkkou explained; it also offers a chance for cultural exchange and “a platform for understanding and communication.”

“What I want to share is that we should never judge a book from its first page… I think this experience is a life-changing experience for me. Of course, I’m sharing, but also, I’m learning. Every day I learn something here.”

Students also have many questions for Oubkkou, which she happily answers as “a chance to voice out and talk on behalf of [her] Arab country.”

“My advice from my heart: Be flexible. Whatever is here is worth trying. Try everything. Don’t skip a chance. Be engaging. Engage with people; be sociable. Never be shy to share your culture – your flaws, your problems, your issues in your country. Always be ready to take and to learn because you will learn a lot here.”

Oubkkou will continue teaching Arabic and taking graduate-level courses next semester. As she parts ways with the University and country at the end of her program, Oubkkou hopes to leave a legacy.

“I want to leave and know that everyone knows Morocco very well and is ready to come and visit Morocco. This is the vision of Fulbright: When you leave, people will follow you to your country. When I go, I want people to recall me. There was a Fulbrighter. SHE was here.”


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