Rodolpho Camargo and Salah Algabli give perspective on the Allegheny experience




Rodolpho Camargo

Rodolpho Camargo, an international student at Allegheny, saw snow for the first time on Nov. 7, 2014. Being from San Paulo, Brazil, Camargo is not used to the cold temperatures, and is apprehensive about the upcoming winter. He described his hometown as being between 110-115 degrees fahrenheit at the peak of the summer and winters only falling between 40-50 degrees.

Though Camargo has ice skated before, he has not had the opportunity to participate in winter sports. He is more acquainted with time in the sun. Where he lived at home, he was able to take an hour-long subway ride to the beach, so he and his friends spent much of their time there.

Camargo has lived in three different cities in his lifetime: Reginópolis, Bauru and São Paulo, the capital of the state of São Paulo. Reginópolis has a population of 5,000, Bauru a population of 300,000, and São Paulo a population of 20 million in its metropolitan area. This has allowed Camargo to experience small, middle-sized and big city life.

Having spent ten years of his life in the small city of Reginópolis, Camargo found the Meadville fairs he attended this fall familiar. However, because he is from such a small town, he is also used to a tighter knit community than he finds here.

“I just think there’s a huge gap between the college and the [Meadville] community,” Camargo said.

Back home, Camargo’s university, the Universidade Sagrado Coração, and the community were very interwoven. Because he is not used to the disconnect and does not like it, Camargo has begun exploring opportunities to interact with the Meadville community more.

“I’m thinking of doing volunteering,” said Camargo. Currently, he is researching different hospitals he may be able to volunteer at.

Despite this medicinal volunteering interest, Camargo is used to the teaching job he possesses here at Allegheny.

“I used to teach English in Brazil, and then phonetics,” he explained.

While Camargo used to also work as a translator back in Brazil, at Allegheny he works as a teaching assistant and participates in the Portuguese lab. On the side, he is taking exploring difference and German classes.

Since coming here, he has found that the education experience is far from what he expected.

“It’s just a huge difference between educational systems here and in Brazil,” Camargo said. He has found that the coursework is more rigorous than he anticipated and the assignments more numerous. However, this unexpected turn has not affected his performance, says his exploring difference professor, Kazi Joshua.

“Rodolpho is a very diligent and intellectually curious student,” Joshua said. He added. “There is really no significant difference in how he is entering into the community of inquiry within our class from the other American students.”

Camargo’s student, Paul Cancilla, ’17, agrees that Camargo adds an interesting perspective to his learning experience.

“I also really enjoy the different perspective he gives to the class. It is fun to hear about what life in Brazil is like from a Brazilian citizen,” Cancilla said.

Joshua feels that Camargo’s diversity has created a more valuable experience within the class.

“He has expanded the quality of our discourse. Instead of simply being confined to the USA as a frame of reference, he has pushed us to consider the way these concepts play out in other geographical locations,” Joshua said.

However, he did have a short time to look into the school he would be attending, and when he was given five options and asked to rank his preferences, Allegheny ranked third for all of its modern and classical language options.

Having already graduated from college in Brazil, Camargo will remain at Allegheny until the end of the 2014-2015 academic school year before returning home.





Salah Algabli

Salah Algabli is the Arabic Fulbright foreign language teaching assistant for the 2014-2015 academic year. Energetic and passionate about sharing his Yemeni culture, Algabli is an advocate for fostering friendships between the Middle East and the West, particularly America.

As a teaching assistant, he teaches classes once a week, hosts the Arabic language table, grades papers and stays available to help students during his office hours.

“I think he’s great…he’s very enthusiastic. He makes learning Arabic more fun,” said Hana Falein, ’15, a student of Algabis’. “If we discuss something in class and don’t get it, he’s always willing to go over it in lab hours…he’s very helpful in helping us understand concepts that are difficult to understand in the classroom.

Outside the classroom, he has organized a demonstration of a Yemeni wedding and the chance to cook and eat Yemeni food before watching the Arabic movie at the International Film Festival. He also organizes activities for the weekly Arabic table.

Algabli notifies people when the table will meet and keeps things different and interesting at each session so more people will come. They talk in Arabic except when necessary, as well as play songs, tell stories, dance and sometimes try Yemeni food or coffee.

Algabli also works with Project Nur, a student-led organization for Muslims. They have meetings every Friday where they discuss issues between the Middle East and the West. Algabli has assisted them with all of their events and is hoping to organize Skype conversations between Yemeni and American students next semester.

In his home country Yemen, Algabli founded the non-profit organization One Hand for Development in 2010.

The name One Hand for Development comes from Algablis’ desire for people from different cultures, backgrounds and religions to work as one hand. Some projects that the organization has run so far have been multicultural days and American events in Taiz, Algablis’ home city.

The organization has 12 main volunteers in Yemen who consistently work for them and 50 others who help out sometimes. It is currently self-sponsored, but Algabli said they are trying to find funding for next semester.

Algabli believes that a lot of problems come from misunderstandings between the Middle East and Western world. He wants to break the miscommunications between the two cultures and to do this, part of his organization’s program offers English courses to Yemeni students.

“[I]f you want to understand about other countries, you have to understand the language…that’s why we’re conducting English courses,” Algabli said.

Algabli has also noticed a lack of participation at events he organizes.

“Most Americans don’t want to know a new culture,” Algabli said. “American students don’t want to participate in the things we do. It is mostly other international students who are there, Americans are not really interested.”

Despite this, he said he is very proud of the things that he has organized. His favorite thing is getting to know his students and classmates. He said the hardest thing about being a teaching assistant is the Arabic grammar. Algabli teaches classical Arabic, which they don’t use in his country except when they write.

Along with homesickness, he struggled with not being able to pronounce the names of foods when he was trying to order them. Despite these initial problems Algabli said he is happy now.

“I like Allegheny. People are so friendly and nice. Everyone working here is really helpful, especially the International Office…I don’t hesitate to contact them, even about personal problems,” Algabli said.

Yazmin Peña, ’15, said that although she is not currently taking any Arabic classes, she attended the movie night and has attended two of the language tables this semester.

“From what I’ve seen, Salah is a great TA,” she said. “He’s enthusiastic and always tries to make his lessons fun. His energy is what I’m sure makes the most difference to his students.”