The Calm Before the Storm

In the days leading up to the students' arrival, the on-site staff members at St. Michael's College are waiting with much anticipation and excitement...

June 26, 2016

The world is quiet here at St. Michael’s College -- yet, nevertheless, filled with much anticipation in the days approaching the official start of Middlebury Interactive’s Chinese and French Language Academies.

From meetings to presentations: the staff has busily been devoting their time to the official commencement of the Academy. Amidst these meetings and presentations, however, all of the staff -- the teachers, RA’s, nurses, and administrative workers -- have still found time to introduce themselves, explore the campus, and partake in a multitude of fun and engaging icebreaker activities.  

Amongst all the excitement, the Summer Site Manager -- Rabia Mairech -- took time out of her day to sit down for an interview on the value, importance, and necessity of learning foreign languages in today’s modern world.

Ms. Mairech is entering her fourth year of experience with Middlebury Interactive. In addition to English, she speaks Spanish, Arabic, and French. Outside of the Academy, she works as a high school teacher for French and Spanish; also, she is an adjunct professor at several universities for Arabic.

When posed with the question of -- “What is the value in learning foreign languages?” -- Ms. Mairech responded by first citing the integral lesson of communication that it teaches students. According to her, languages have the power to “connect the learner to cultures all over the world.”

To further the concept of cultural connectedness, she noted that languages, also, put the learner more closely in touch with his/her home. Foreign language enclaves are found all over the United States -- and because of that, knowing another language enables an individual to become part of these rich cultures, and everything that surrounds them.

Ms. Mairech also spoke of the horizons that are opened through learning another language. Foreign languages, according to her, are: “Doors to the rest of the world.” And once these doors are opened, the opportunities are endless. 

She then spoke on the necessity of learning languages by saying, that, “The more languages we know, the more cultures we know, then the better the world becomes.”

In the interview, Ms. Mairech was also asked to articulate on the importance of having a full-immersion experience within a foreign language.

In essence, she said that it all comes down to “being forced to use the language.” According to her, typical classroom settings are crucial to learning languages, but they possess one large drawback: once out of the classroom, the students are no longer using the language.

Immersion programs -- like Middlebury Interactive’s Summer Academies -- give students the unequivocally unique chance to simulate life in a foreign country, while still living within the United States.

Ms. Mairech also took time to speak about the progress students undergo while at the Academy. The ultimate goal, she said, is to have kids with “zero knowledge” be able to communicate effectively, easily speak about themselves, and have the ability to survive in a foreign country by the end of the four-week program. With that being said, she noted that, “I’ve seen many, many students go way beyond that expectation.”

At the end of the interview, Ms. Mairech was posed with the question of: “What is the most valuable lesson students take away from the academy?”

Without hesitation, she responded saying, “Not to be afraid.” When asked to elaborate, she said that the academy gives the students a chance to break through any worries or fears that may hold them back -- both on a personal and academic level.

Lastly, Ms. Mairech stated that, “We’re here to support the kids in advancing their language skills -- but also, socially, we’re here for them to grow.”

Ms. Mairech and her passion for languages and student personal growth is but one example of the many influential staff members here at St. Michael’s College for the Chinese and French Academies.

The next four weeks are bound to be engaging, intellectually-challenging, but above all -- fun!

Everyone is beyond excited for the arrival of students on Tuesday!


Rabia Mairech: Summer Site Manager