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Andrea Dillon: Study Arabic, Research for an NGO in Syria, and Travel in the Middle East and S. Asia

July 5, 2011

Andrea Dillon

I took the fall of my junior year off to study colloquial Arabic and conduct research for an NGO in the West Bank and Damascus, Syria. Between work and lessons, I traveled through Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and India. Highlights include: hitchhiking from one side of Turkey to the other; watching history’s largest, world-record-breaking kanafeh (a Middle Eastern sweet made of cheese and honey) get trampled by a stampede of human beings at Nablus’ annual Kanafeh Festival; taking a lone, 36-hour train ride across the berth of India; playing Capoeira with Damascus’ local company and teaching the Brazilian art in a Syrian girls’ juvenile prison; learning to cook from my Palestinian tutor and learning to paint with watercolors from a Palestinian refugee; hiking the Middle East’s highest peak; driving a motorcycle around the Golan Heights; getting my hair dyed hot pink in an Iraqi refugee’s hair salon; crashing three weddings and the reception party of a fourth; perfecting the art of setting up a hookah; and sleeping amongst Sikh pilgrims at Amritsar’s Golden Temple. Assets of my time away from Brown include becoming friends with myself; appreciation for the unbelievable progress that language immersion allows; insight into how to adventure on a shoestring budget; learning that plans are made to be broken; and acquiring confidence that landing it a place and making it happen isn’t as hard as it sounds. There’s little I like more than talking about this kind of stuff, so hit me up!

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