Aerial view of downtown Abu Dhabi

Teaching English at the Somali Social and Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi

For NYU Abu Dhabi freshman Juliana Bello, volunteering at the Somali Social and Cultural Centre is a natural extension of the work she did in her home state of New Jersey before leaving for university. Having tutored children at HomeFront, a US organization that aims to end homelessness in Central New Jersey, Bello is an experienced teacher who enjoys helping those she would "otherwise have little access to."

Bello initially heard about the Centre — a community space for Somalis living in Abu Dhabi and beyond — during her first semester at NYUAD. She began volunteering seriously soon after and presently commits more than four hours each week to help Centre visitors improve their spoken English.

Bello says that her work typically involves speaking, listening, asking questions, and telling stories. This semester she has also begun sharing videos and images to incorporate visual elements into her teaching practice. Bello's aim is straightforward: as she said, "mostly the goal is to get them at a level of conversation that they can be conversational socially and in the workplace."

Bello enjoys her work tremendously and says that the rapport she has established with Centre individuals inspires her to return each week. "I definitely have friends there," she said, "it's not just students." Frequently, her work takes her outside of the Centre itself — on weekends, she often goes out to dinner with groups to tutor English in more casual contexts. "When we're out being social, it's also a good thing because it makes [the students] more comfortable speaking English in a way because their guard is down and they're in a friendly environment. [The learning] comes more naturally," Bello said.

While Bello has not yet decided what she wants to study (she's interested in psychology at the moment), she knows she wants to work toward addressing existing social needs. "I like helping where I'm asked to help. I don't like to go in and force help on people," she said. "That's what I'd like to do with my life — give help to people who ask for it." Presently, her work at the Somali Centre remains central to pursuing this goal. "I'll be helping out there as long as I can," she said.