Student Stories

Hannah Dalaidenne

2023 WISLI Arabic Student





Why did you choose to study at WISLI? What motivated you to choose our program?

The WISLI program was recommended to me by my career advisor. UW Madison’s language institute is well-known in my college and highly regarded by students and faculty. It is also less expensive than other universities’ intensive language courses, which was relevant to me.

How has learning a less commonly taught language enriched your personal and professional life?

Learning a less commonly taught language has expanded my linguistic and cultural awareness. In my personal life, I am better able to appreciate the perspective of Arabic-speaking friends and teachers. My awareness of how rich Arabic is and how much I have to learn results in linguistic and cultural humility. My questions are more likely to come from a place of genuine curiosity which in turn enriches my relationships. Studying Arabic is significant to my professional life. I wish to work in counter-terrorism and deradicalisation concerning Islamic extremism and believe that language is an essential component to understanding how it comes about.

What about WISLI/UW-Madison stands out to you?

The quality of education. My tutor was very knowledgeable and really understood what it is to learn Arabic as a non-native speaker. We covered a lot of basic structures and the strong Arabic foundation I have developed makes it possible for me to keep learning Arabic independently which I am very grateful for. My tutor was also able to adapt their teaching to who was in the classroom and work with different learning paces.

How do you plan to apply proficiency in your target language and cultural skills to your personal/professional journey?

I wish to keep learning Arabic to develop my reading and conversational skills. One of my primary goals is to be able to read the Quran and discuss it with Arabic speakers. It is an ambitious goal but MEDLI showed me that being consistent with a language pays off and that through hard work, expectations can be exceeded.

What were some of the highlights of your program? What events did you particularly enjoy?

I really enjoyed the cooking day. Students from all Arabic levels came together to cook Arabic/Middle Eastern food and it was delicious! I appreciate how the program was not only academically rigorous but also focused on introducing the culture of the studied language. For example, my tutor introduced us to famous Arab poets and writers, discussing Arabic literature and the history of the Arabic language. It created an understanding that Arabic is an incredibly rich language with a complicated and fascinating history and that by studying it we can appreciate its impact on our worlds.

What role did the WISLI Tuition Scholarship play when you were making decisions? How would you encourage other students who might be interested in the scholarship to apply?

The WISLI Tuition Scholarship had an extensive role in my decision to attend WISLI 2023. It enabled me to take the high-quality language study courses at UW-Madison, which I would not otherwise have been able to participate in for financial reasons. I would encourage all students who consider applying for the scholarship to spend time working on their applications. Show your passion, desire and dedication to learning your target language. Be explicit about your goals and how knowledge of your target language will help you achieve them. Good luck!

What advice would you give to students who want to study the same language as you?

Have fun with it! Arabic is an incredible language to learn and it will open up a whole new world to you. Spend time on the basic structures and once you’ve wrapped your head around basic grammar and understand how patterns and root work, your progress will only be exponential. Don’t lose sight of your goal and be gentle with yourself. Learning a new language is hard but very much possible. For me, the most important was to enjoy the learning process because I knew that it is the only way I would keep learning Arabic in the long term.

What is your favorite expression in the language you studied this summer?

My favourite expression is شلونك. It is a way to ask “how are you” and comes from “what is your colour” which I find to be a beautiful way to ask about someone’s mood.

Emma Carlson

2022 WISLI Elementary Turkish Student







Language Institute and Level: APTLI / Elementary Turkish

Why did you choose to study a language through WISLI? What attracted you to our program specifically? I wasn’t initially planning on attending this program but I applied for the UW-Madison SROP for Humanities which meant I had to shift my focus for what I wanted to do over the summer as it was a fully-funded program. Turkish was not my first-choice language but out of the languages WISLI offered it fit the best with what I’m interested in studying.

How has studying a less commonly taught language enriched your life? Studying Turkish has been a kind of newer ambition/goal for me but looking at what I’m most interested in academically and how I can put that into a career, like going to graduate school for history, I know that language study is a very big part of that.

What makes studying a language at WISLI/UW-Madison unique to you? In my home state, Montana, I don’t think I would’ve had the opportunity to study Turkish, so that is something that WISLI offered that was unique to me.

How do you plan to use the language you’re learning in your personal/professional journey? A desire would be to read Turkish well enough to be able to focus on an area of research while using that language. That seems like a really ambitious goal because of how intensive the classes are but that is out there as a future goal.

What are you most looking forward to in your language program? Or events that you have already done? I am looking forward to the LCTL Career Fair that’s happening next week because I think it’ll be really useful going forward to have that information once I am done with the program. I have also really liked the Turkish Conversation Hours, even though I’ve just gone to one, but it was nice to have that one-on-one interaction in practicing speaking Turkish to someone else.

What has been the impact of the WISLI Tuition Scholarship for you?  What would you say to other students who might be interested in applying for the scholarship? I most likely wouldn’t have been able to come to WISLI without the scholarship, but through a lot of hard work I was able to finance everything in the end. I think that something that I’ve learned while applying to scholarships or internships is that it’s good to just apply, even if you don’t get it, you still have that experience. You can assume you might not get it but you don’t know if you don’t try.

Do you have any advice for students who are studying the same language as you? I really believe it’s best for students to find that balance between their academic and personal lives, and it’s something I have tried to keep in mind for a long time. While that does kind of go against the premise of this intensive program because of the amount of material you are expected to retain, I think it is important to find that balance. I also think practicing outside of the classroom when you can is very useful, so taking advantage of those opportunities when they arise is a good idea.

What is your favorite word/phrase/proverb in your language? The phrase “hayırlı olsun” generally translates to “may this have a good outcome”, and can be used for almost everything.

Jack Crabb

2022 WISLI Elementary Arabic Student







Language Institute and Level: APTLI / Elementary Arabic

Why did you choose to study a language through WISLI? What attracted you to our program specifically? I am a UW-Madison student so I found out about WISLI through the university, and I was really interested in the program because I knew there was a really big emphasis on the cultural aspects of language learning. I also knew that it wouldn’t just be class for four hours a day and that I would be getting a lot out of the program.

How has studying a less commonly taught language enriched your life? Even though I am just an elementary Arabic learner I already feel like I’ve learned a lot academically as well as culturally. I’ve met a lot of cool people and I think that studying a less commonly taught language like Arabic, even though it’s spoken by millions of people, will open up a lot of new opportunities for me and allow me to communicate with more people.

What makes studying a language at WISLI/UW-Madison unique to you? I think that it’s great that this program takes place in Madison, it’s a great city. Taking Arabic through WISLI, and I’ve also studied Spanish at UW-Madison, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot out of it just because of how much emphasis is put on communication. It’s not just memorizing the vocabulary and writing it on the test, we do a lot of talking in the classroom. We also do a Conversation Hour where we just practice conversational skills with our classmates.

How do you plan to use the language you’re learning in your personal/professional journey? I’d love to travel to the Middle East or North Africa, but also as a Linguistics major, knowing another language like Arabic would give me a lot more opportunities professionally as it is less commonly taught.

What are you most looking forward to in your language program? Or events that you have already done? I loved when we had an Arabic Breakfast, and that was really fun and I would love to be able to do that every week if it were possible. I really enjoyed getting to meet the other Arabic language learners and their instructors.

What has been the impact of the  WISLI Tuition Scholarship for you?  What would you say to other students who might be interested in applying for the scholarship? The scholarship was one of the main reasons that I was able to attend WISLI, and if somebody is on the fence about applying, I would definitely say go for it. You never know if you are going to get it or not if you don’t try first.

Do you have any advice for students who are studying the same language as you? At least for Arabic learners, I think getting the script down, even though it may seem like common sense, is very important because the easier it is to read Arabic, the easier it’ll make everything else seem. And because Arabic has a different writing system, it’s good to spend a lot of time on learning the script.

What is your favorite word/phrase/proverb in your language? The word that I probably use the most is ان شاء الله (Inshallah), which means “God willing”. I like it a lot because in Spanish the word “ojalá” is a direct adaptation of “Inshallah”.

Ahlan and Hello!

My name is Perrin King and I am an elementary Arabic student in the [MEDLI] APTLI program this summer. I am an undergraduate student at UW-Madison studying International Studies and History with a focus on the Middle East. I am originally from Plymouth, Minnesota, and I am going into my third year at UW in the fall.

When I’m not studying, I spend my free time reading, baking, cooking, and playing trombone. I love to try my hand at foods from around the world and this program has inspired me to make foods from the Arab world. I have played trombone in a couple of concert bands here, but you’ll most often find me practicing and performing as a member of the UW Marching Band. Some of my favorite memories at UW thus far have come from my time in the Badger Band!

My favorite part of [MEDLI] APTLI is the variety of extracurricular programming offered throughout the summer semester. From fun events like board game nights, pick-up soccer, and Turkish painting to new learning opportunities in lectures on Arabic history and writing workshops, there have been numerous chances to expand my learning and involvement outside the classroom. The professors are knowledgeable and have taught accelerated language programs in the past, so the pacing is manageable even if challenging. With small class sizes and an equal emphasis on all language learning skills, I have progressed faster than I thought possible.

I chose [MEDLI] APTLI because I wanted to get the most out of my time at UW-Madison. I hope to work for the government in the future, most likely in diplomacy or a similar field. As Arabic is a less commonly taught language in the United States, the skills I am developing here will be invaluable to my future career. On top of learning the language, my time at [MEDLI] APTLI has given me a better understanding of how I learn and has prepared me well for future language learning opportunities. I am taking Arabic 3 this fall and look forward to more language learning in my future!

Meet Emma Cano

Arabic Student Alum

“I recently graduated from Smith College (2021) with a major in Biology and minor in Arabic. At [MEDLI] APTLI, I studied intermediate Arabic for 8 weeks in the summer in Madison in 2019. I enjoyed my time in the program because of the community, friendships, atmosphere, and progress I made in my class. Although it was challenging, the amount of conversational language skills I learned was invaluable and more than I would ever have gotten in a strictly college class setting. I had a great instructor who pushed us in class but also saw the value in finding moments to have fun with the language by conducting art classes, garden sessions, and more. The atmosphere of the program and how the staff and other instructors conducted the 8 weeks was awesome. There were always activities on the weekends and other bonding activities with all classes throughout that allowed me to make life-long friends. With the help of this program, I feel more confident in my future plans of studying to become a nurse practitioner at Columbia University and working with Arabic-speaking communities, with a specific focus on refugees.”

Student blog project by Amanda Fatemi-Badi

I applied to [MEDLI] APTLI because I knew I wanted to give myself the best chance of learning Persian. As a heritage learner, I had spent years dabbling with Rosetta Stone on and off, hopefully searching for classes throughout my undergrad and graduate careers only to see Persian was either not offered, or the classes offered would be cancelled every semester for lack of enrollment. When I finally stumbled across a link to MEDLI, I saw the 8-week summer intensive program offered in Madison as the ideal option, the one I’d been looking for without knowing it.

Though I could tell from the website that the course would be challenging—4 hours a day of class 5 days a week plus homework, extra events, and activities!—I didn’t really know what to expect from the whole experience. I’d never been to Madison before, or even the Midwest, and I didn’t really know what 4 hours of language instruction a day would feel like. I assumed it would be hard, a summer of studying in the library and trying to remember what a past participle is.

And it is hard—4 hours of language instruction is 4 hours of paying close attention. It’s more active learning than I’d ever experienced before. It’s also more rewarding, with more information being absorbed at a quicker pace. Being self-motivated to do the work is important to keep up and not fall behind. It’s exhausting, to be honest—but luckily Madison turned out to be the perfect place to spend a strenuous summer!

After class you can head to the terrace at Memorial Union, sit in a shady spot and watch the lake—full of sailboats, kayaks, and windsurfers—and maybe eat some cheese curds until you feel ready to tackle homework. If the breeze off the lake is too strong for your flash cards, there’s also a seemingly unending number of libraries to study in. Memorial Library is my personal favorite because of the many food carts parked outside for study snacking.

Madison is also an incredibly walkable and bikable city, in addition to having a great public bus system (free to students!), so if you’re feeling restless after a morning of learning, a long walk down State Street and around the Capital (if you want people watching and shopping) or down the lakeshore (if you can’t get enough of staring at that giant lake) is always a great post-class activity.

If you have the energy, [MEDLI] APTLI offers extra events—movie screenings, lectures, dance workshops, etc.—that help fill up your free time and add more opportunities to meet other students and practice your language skills. The student conference is particularly great, as you’ll get to hear about the research interests of your classmates across all for the languages offered during the summer programs.

Madison offers a lot of extra events too, mostly situated around the nearby Capital Square—a Saturday Farmer’s Market, weekly outdoor public concerts, a weekend art fair, a comedy club and multiple venues for more music. If you get tired of everything the Capital has to offer, exploring in any other direction from the campus you’ll find more restaurants, cafés, bookstores, shops, and parks.

While I don’t think there’s any way to fully prepare for how challenging the program is, you should know that 8 weeks in Madison with [MEDLI] APTLI will be full—full of learning, meeting new people, gazing at the lake, attending events, and enjoying a city with way more to offer than you’ll have time to see. Luckily there’s always another level or another language to learn next summer!

Meet Aaron Suiter

Arabic Student Alum

“I’ve participated in [MEDLI] APTLI twice: once (in person) in the summer of 2019 to study first year Arabic, and then again (online) in the summer of 2020 to study second year Arabic. I studied MSA through [MEDLI] APTLI because I planned to conduct ethnographic dissertation research in Tunisia, and I wanted an intensive program to really kickstart my language journey. I really enjoyed studying Arabic over the summer—I liked being able to focus all my energy on Arabic without the distraction of other courses, I loved my instructors (shout out to Ustaadha George and Ustaadha Mariam), and I appreciated being in class with other highly-motivated students. Currently I’m studying Tunisian colloquial Arabic through the multi-language seminar offered at UW—Madison’s African Cultural Studies department, and the language skills I learned at [MEDLI] APTLI have proven to be a great linguistic foundation for my studies. In shaa Allah, next summer I will be studying in Tunisia!”

“I thought it was a very helpful classroom experience. I came into this program knowing very little Arabic and I am amazed by how much I learned.”

“I personally believe Fatemeh has a system of teaching with enthusiasm that is transmitted to the students. That is important!”

“I enjoyed the trip to the Oriental Institute because after 2 months of learning Arabic and Arabic culture, I was able to see these artifacts in a new perspective.”

“Everything! I have never had a better teacher. Ever. Anyone who has Salah as a teacher is blessed. I’m not even quite sure I can convey how much I loved having him as an instructor. I have never had a teacher who has cared so much about my well-being and I can’t remember ever meeting anyone so innately talented at putting people at ease. In terms of his teaching “exceedingly stellar” is a gross understatement. Rehire him. That comes from my heart. Salah Algabli is a gift to humanity.”

“This summer, I began learning the Turkish language under the instruction of Dr. Chi (Oğuz). Coming in, I had no prior Turkish learning experience, so it was incredible to see how much I gained through this intensive virtual program. In my elementary Turkish classes, my professor immersed us in the target language through increasingly complex role play, listening, and conversation activities. The highlight of my week was integrating the new concepts and words I learned through class into my twice weekly language partner conversation sessions! Next year, I anticipate continuing my Turkish studies through [MEDLI] APTLI, and I likewise hope to put my new language skills into practice in my future work!”

Abigail Aycock
Elementary Turkish Student

“When I heard that [MEDLI] APTLI was going to be online the summer of 2020 I was a little nervous. I had set high goals for myself going into the summer, hoping to improve to an advanced low on my OPIs, and I was worried from other online class experiences that I wouldn’t grow nearly as much as I would in an in-person class. Needless to say, I was fortunate to be wrong. The professor kept attention (and morale) up by keeping the day dynamic, and his enthusiasm definitely helped convince me to stay invested in the class. The class was organized not like an in-person class forced online, but an online class geared for the situation, which helped things from feeling off-beat. In particular, the use of online breakout rooms offered more opportunities for direct peer to peer Arabic practice not possible with in-person instruction. It was also a great way to get to know our classmates better and decompress from more intensive lessons. Some of my favorite highlights from the program were simply getting to talk to students from all over the country in these breakout sessions. What more, whether watching films or cooking Yemeni foods as a class the program still offered a host of cultural activities that took advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by online instruction. While online intensive learning was certainly a change from the sort of instruction I was used to, I was still able to meet my language goal of improving to advanced low while also making some quality friendships.”

Gordon Goodwin
Arabic Student, [MEDLI] APTLI Alum, 2021 WISLI Student Conference Presenter

Student blog project by an Advanced Turkish student

Pre-Course Thoughts                                                                                                                                                   

Whether for academic enrichment or personal growth, I recommend spending a summer consumed with an intensive language course. Yaz dili programları tavsiye ediyorum.

Since this was not my first or even second intensive language experience, I knew what to expect; however, the comfort of that statement was extremely limited before the end of the first day. Each of the last two summers I participated in first-and-second-year intensive Turkish through another university; however, since both of those experiences were entirely online, moving to an in person environment was an adjustment. Since I am not a student year-round, establishing a routine to find success in the classroom was necessary. Sınıfta başarı bulunacaksınız

Prior to the close of the first week, non-beginning level students took an oral proficiency interview (OPI), a one-on-one phone interview with a native speaker to assess your ability. This was my third OPI test and this time I scored an intermediate high level. Take the result with a grain of salt, however since some of the questions are routine and a speaking assessment, it is not a good judge of someone’s overall knowledge of a language.

In the Classroom                                                                                                                  

Language learning consists of four categories: listening (the hardest for me), speaking (arguably most important), reading and writing (my strength if I had to choose though my classmates would likely cringe at reading this). Dinleme, konuşma, okuma, yazma

Regular activities included watching and listening to video and audio clips to practice and assess listening and conversation skills incorporrating newly learned vocabulary. We also read many articles within (and outside of) our required textbooks (Yeni Ders Kitabı, Yeni Çalışma Kitabı, B2).  From these readings and of our own choice came many writing assignments of different styles (argumentative, opinion, comparison, narrative, etc.). Expect most of your in class exercises to be done with a partner or as a whole class. Çok yeni kelimeler birlikte öğrenceksiniz

Extracurricular Activities

For students of all languages in the summer programs, weekly activities are offered. Examples include, cooking, music and/or dance activities. A weekly Turkish film series and conversation hour to practice speaking with other students outside of your normal classroom setting were also popular choices.     Dans edeceksiniz, müzik dinleyeceksiniz, filmler izleyeceksiniz ve Türk yemek pişireceksiniz


Unexpectedly, my class had a change of instructor in week six; despite this adjustment, the change of teaching style worked better for me. With a small class unable to always cater to the level of each student made for an often challenging class. I think there is always an opportunity to learn even if you are waiting for others to catch up. The university has a lot of resources and I found the staff to be accommodating and helpful as needed, so speak up with any questions, concerns or the like.

Lastly, while I am glad I decided to spend my last few summers consumed by Turkish, it is important to remember that it is challenging and frustrating at times. It does not take long to feel overwhelmed as the last two years have been difficult to say the least. This summer, with two heritage speakers in a class of only four, I often felt out of place since I had so much trouble understanding much of what they said. I do not think I was ready for this class as my vocabulary and grammatical understanding is simply not high enough. In conclusion, I still recommend taking on the challenge of learning a new language, but believe each student should make an honest self-assessment in advance in order to determine the advantageous level for their ability and potential.                                              Herkes Türkçe öğrenmek hoş geldiniz