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Alexandra Gutowski '13 Awarded Scholarship to Study Arabic in Syria

Alexandra Gutowski '13

Alexandra Gutowski '13

Alexandra Gutowski ’13, an international relations major from Montclair, NJ, has been awarded a National Security Education Program (NSEP) Boren Scholarship to study Arabic in Damascus, Syria, where she will enroll at the University of Damascus during the spring and summer of 2012.

Boren Scholarships provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad programs, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. The scholarships are funded by the NSEP, which focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security.

Gutowski, who considers herself an intermediate Arabic speaker, has now taken five Arabic classes, worked on Yale Press’s forthcoming Arabic textbook and undertaken primary source research on the role of the Ottoman ‘Azm family in strengthening Damascus as a bastion of Arab literature, culture and language on the eve of European influence.

“Throughout my studies, I have learned to love the Arabic language, particularly for its rich poetic tradition,” says Gutowski. “This is a huge part of why I am interested in Damascus. The way we have pop music in America, they have poetry with simple language and broad application. Students memorize it. It is recited in cafes and bars. Poets are national celebrities….Damascene culture and language is quintessential Arab. Unlike many other cities, it does not reflect a history of colonialism.”

The University of Damascus has a specific department for foreign learners of Arabic, which includes Modern Standard Arabic as well as the Syrian dialect.  According to Gutowski, “Learning the Syrian dialect is particularly useful. Unlike the dialects of other more common study abroad locations…the Syrian dialect is closest to the Modern Standard Arabic used in the media and is best understood by speakers of other dialects."

Gutowski will make her first trip to the Middle East this summer to study Arabic in Muscat, Oman, through a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship.

She is the daughter of Kathryn and Peter Gutowski, who are also residents of Montclair, NJ.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, is known for small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.