Loukman Ghouti, Language Master & Renaissance Man
Our February Leader in the Spotlight features Loukman Ghouti, a Bachelor of Science student at Dalhousie University. Loukman is extensively involved within the community. He serves as a translator for newly arrived Syrian refugees, is a member of the National Youth Advisory Council of Canada and promotes mental health awareness. On campus, Loukman is a member of the Dalhousie Shine Squad, which raises awareness and fundraises for cystic fibrosis, and is a member of the Dalhousie Equestrian Club. His diverse interests range from reading novels, sketching, and travelling. In our interview, Loukman shares an inspiring story about a Syrian refugee that he volunteered with, offers advice to first year undergraduates and shares tips on learning new languages quickly.
1. As a volunteer at the immigration association, you have helped newcomers with translational services and have also helped plan multicultural events. What are some stories you have heard from immigrants that have inspired you?
Working with the Syrian refugees has truly been a blessing as it has helped me to further appreciate all the things that we take for granted – things such as safety and education. One of the most inspirational stories I was told was by a young lady who landed in Canada about a year ago. This young woman, whom I will call “Bisma”, was a nursing student in Syria – before the war. Following the breakout of the civil war, “Bisma” had to leave flee Syria with her family to neighboring Lebanon. Since her arrival here in Canada, she has worked fervently to improve her English and to achieve her long-awaited dream of becoming a nurse. This story has greatly inspired me to work harder for my goals and I surely hope that it will also inspire others out there.
2. One of your hobbies is watching operettas. What is an operetta and which one is your favourite?
Great questions! To start off, many people wonder what the actual difference is between the classical opera and an operetta. While both are works of music and drama, an operetta often has a much “lighter” or happier theme. My absolute favorite operetta is the Contes d’Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach. It tells the story of a poet who discusses his past lovers. I remember seeing a performance of this at the Opéra d’Alger when I was younger and since then, it has always been my favorite. I also enjoy Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote), which talks about a prince’s adventures in the woods and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia), which discusses the lives of Figaro and Almaviva in 18th century Spain. The Barber of Seville really is a comical performance! One should especially pay attention to the dialogue between Bartolo and Almaviva.
3. Now that you are in the first year of your undergrad, do you have any advice for grade 12 students as they apply for universities and make decisions about which program to pursue?
The greatest advice that I have to offer is to be organized! Make sure that you are aware of all the deadlines and that you are prepared ahead of time to meet those deadlines. Also, don’t be afraid to contact the admissions staff and alumni of the programs that you are interested in. This is very helpful as it builds a greater picture of what is expected of you in that program. Finally, always have a backup; whether that may be in the choice of institution or area of study.
4. You are fluent in French, English and Arabic, and volunteer some of your time as a translator. Do you have any language learning advice for students just starting to learn French or Arabic?
To me, the easiest way to learn a new language is to practice it. What good is reading a book about vocabulary if you don’t use it? The way I learned French is through films and music. Listening to others speak the language is extremely beneficial. Also, if your school or city has a club dedicated to a particular language, join it! Having someone to practice with will make it that much more amusing. I have recently committed myself to leaning German. Although I find some words difficult to pronounce, I have joined a language program at my local library to practice.
5. What has been the best experience of your undergrad thus far?
Although my undergrad has so far been filled with numerous great experiences, a truly memorable one was the Arabic cultural night, which was a cultural celebration held to raise awareness of Arabic culture. As an event planner and social media coordinator for the Dalhousie Arabic Society, my roles included booking the venue, hiring the entertainment, obtaining healthy foods and applying for funds and sponsorships. The time spent organizing the event truly paid off as it was a great success! I made quite a few friends and I had the opportunity to meet individuals from all corners of the globe. Additionally, the society is currently planning on holding a formal Arabic Gala to showcase traditional art, gastronomy and music. This will truly be a feast for me as I already have great plans for the evening!
Loukman is happy to answer questions about Dalhousie, university applications, and student involvement, through our free National Young Leader mentorship program. Reach out and connect with Loukman!