Having lived in Jordan and Lebanon three times prior, Andrew Kosydar, a PhD student in Biology from the University of Washington, recognized the importance of learning Arabic in order to complete his research. Therefore, he applied, and received, a Boren Fellowship in 2008 to study Arabic and continue his research on conservation efforts within Lebanon’s national parks.
Andrew chose to focus on his language learning by studying in Syria. He enrolled in intensive Arabic classes at the University of Damascus which has a very demanding language program at a fairly affordable cost. Furthermore, Syria has relatively few English speakers and Andrew arranged to live with a family, putting himself in the position to practice Arabic outside of class. Similarly, he quickly made several Syrian friends, going with them to engagement parties, to their family homes outside of Damascus, and out for nargileh and coffee. Thus, he was constantly speaking Arabic and interacting with locals either at the university, on the street, or at home or, after the first few months, felt as if he “studied Arabic every waking moment of everyday.” His efforts resulted in improving his ACTFL score from an intermediate low to an advanced low.
Being based in Damascus also allowed him to continue his research in Lebanon which is aimed at improving conservation efforts in Lebanon. He made several trips to Beirut to meet with colleagues from the American University of Beirut. These trips involved discussing the results of a prior collaboration on the effects of habitat fragmentation in Lebanon’s flagship national park, Al Shouf Cedar Reserve, working with colleagues out in the field, mostly at Jebel Mousa which is currently being considered as a national park, and discussing new ideas for future research collaborations.
Andrew is currently focused on writing his dissertation and hopes to finish it this summer. He is looking for a position within the federal government that will utilize his background and previous research in species loss and conservation.
Written: December 2009