contributed by Isaiah Curtis

Growing up in rural Whiteland, Indiana, I had no first-hand exposure to Arabic or Middle Eastern culture until a foreign-exchange student from Israel came to my high school. We quickly became friends and I took an interest in their native language, Arabic.

Attending Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana provided the opportunity to explore this new interest in greater depth, and I enrolled in Arabic my freshman year. From the first day of class, I knew I had made the right decision due to the richness and beauty of how Arabic sounds. In addition to my classwork, I took advantage of Indiana’s diverse student population making friends with students from Saudi Arabia. We met once a week for coffee and conversation in Arabic.

It was over these cups of coffee we shared ideas, made cultural connections, and stumbled over broken English and Arabic conversation. To me, the act of drinking coffee has always been accompanied by learning. On some nights, I was invited to one of my Saudi friend’s houses for coffee and conversation where I would be introduced to Arabic coffee, the rituals associated with drinking it, and the process of making it. Arabic coffee, a combination of finely ground spices, cardamom, and distinct types of roasted beans, always readied my mind for learning.

Having recently graduated, it wasn’t until my internship at LUNA Language Services I was provided the means and encouragement of bringing my love for Arabic coffee to the people of Indiana. On October 27th, 2017, I set up an “Arabic Coffee Pop-up Shop” at Calvin Fletcher’s Coffee Co. and laid out everything I enjoyed on a table. Indiana residents coming in to get their quick morning coffee were exposed to a new type of coffee accompanied by learning about a new culture. I thought if there was any way I could gather people and introduce them to a new idea it would be through something people were already familiar with: coffee. It just so happened to be that Arabic coffee was my favorite and to me it had always been associated with learning. What better way to have residents learn about a new culture than the way I learned?

I love breaking down language and cultural barriers in my home state because I feel I’m facilitating understanding between people and acting as a cultural ambassador when and where I can. Moving forward, I plan on finding new and innovative ways to expose Indiana residents to new cultures and new ideas.

Have an idea on how to bring new cultures and ideas to your community? Let me know.