Columbia, Md - It's not your typical class here at Howard Community College. Students are learning about the Arabic culture. They are experiencing a traditional Middle Eastern breakfast.
They are also learning how to engage in conversation over the morning meal. It's all part of the Startalk Program.
"I think what I want them to get out of it is a broader understanding of cultures. One of the things we insist on is that culture does not exist in a vacuum, but they cross fertilize each other," said Cheryl Berman, Director of Startalk.
Howard Community College's World Languages Program offers students a dynamic summer learning opportunity thanks to a national grant from Startalk. It's a U.S. Government initiative to increase the number of Americans learning critical need languages.
Students learn Arabic, Persian, Mandarin Chinese or Hindi with native speaking teachers. It's all tuition free.
"I really like the Arabic culture and I have Arabic friends. I think it's an important language to understand in terms of living in a multicultural world and there are a lot of issues that our generation needs to solve and learning a language like Arabic will help with those issues," said Matthew Keating, Sophomore.
The program allows students to experience different cultures. They not only learn the languages, but the customs as well.
"It's going good. It's a lot different than my High School classes. It's more hands on and you are participating in the class as opposed to memorizing worksheets," said Clarissa Sheltraw, Startalk student.
Many of the students plan to continue learning the language in college and possibly using it to work in the State Department.
The Startalk Program runs until Thursday August 1st. Students attend classes Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 12:30pm.
The program serves students in eighth through 12th grades.
120 students are enrolled in the program. They also receive college credits for the course.