جامعة النجاح الوطنية
An-Najah National University

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By Lauren Worth

Volunteering with the Zajel Youth Exchange Programme of the Public Relations department at ‎An-Najah National University is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who, for personal or ‎professional reasons, has a desire to learn more about Arab culture, university life in the Middle ‎East, and/or issues surrounding access to higher education in conflict areas.‎


I initially contacted Zajel with an interest in volunteering in order to advance my own professional ‎goals. I wanted an experience in higher education in the Middle East to make me a more ‎competitive candidate as I searched for a permanent position with an American university. My ‎experience here has been more than I could have imagined. These experiences have inspired an ‎interest in learning more about the issues surrounding access to higher education in conflict areas ‎and has made me consider the psychological effects of the political situation here on students ‎working towards a degree.

The local students are a joy to work with. As a former teacher, I know it’s unusual to have a class ‎of students so engaged and excited. Every day with the students is amazing. Despite the ‎hardships, they are dedicated, enthusiastic, and kind. I conducted three workshops for the ‎students. One of the workshops was 5 hours each Saturday. The others were during the university ‎lunch breaks throughout the week. Even when the university was on strike, and regular classes ‎canceled, the students showed up ready to learn. The energy and passion they put into the ‎workshops is inspiring.‎

Zajel gave me the opportunity to share my knowledge with the students and enhance my own ‎skills. The staff have been very flexible in accommodating my interests and experience and ‎designing workshops and other office tasks around my strengths and personal background. Zajel ‎is open to any project or workshop you might suggest and will provide you with the support and ‎resources to make it happen. I’ve found working with the program and the university to be very ‎easy and I am grateful for the experience to work in another culture’s business environment.

As someone with limited experience and exposure to the Middle East and no Arabic language ‎skills, I found the staff of Zajel, along with the local student volunteers, to be more than willing to ‎help me out with whatever I need. Almost 2 months into my time in Nablus, I continue to see ‎students stop by my office just to say “hello” or ask if I need anything that they might be able to ‎help me with. Anyone with concerns about volunteering in Palestine should not worry. The staff ‎and students here will take great care of you and will bend over backwards to help you with ‎anything you need.‎

I’ve spent over five years living, working, and traveling outside my home country. Nowhere in the ‎world matches Palestine for hospitality. From the moment I stepped off the bus, I was welcomed ‎by everyone I met. Nablus is a great city to get an authentic, local experience away from the ‎typical tourist destinations in the area. You will love spending hours wandering through the Old ‎City. I’ve fallen more in love with this program, university, and city than I ever expected, and I’m ‎sure you will too.‎


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