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“Jump In and Embrace It”: Feature on Ms. Samawi
Isabella Casillas ’24 Associate Editor
November 18, 2021

Passionate. Kind. Intelligent. These are all words that have been used to describe Lina Al Samawi, who currently serves as an Arabic teacher, the Assistant Director of the Center for Service and Global Citizenship (CSGC), an International Student Advisor, and the dorm resident on Harold Smith II.

Credit: Anne Duong

Previously a class dean and professor at King’s Academy Jordan for 10 years, Ms. Samawi joined the Deerfield community last August 2020, teaching Arabic classes via zoom. It was not until early January that she was able to come to campus and teach classes in person. 

Although the decision to leave King’s was not easy, Ms. Samawi “felt that it was time to make a move, especially since Deerfield is similar but also very different from King’s.” Her conversations with Head of School Dr. Austin and Spouse of Head of School Monica Matouk about their valued Deerfield experiences also encouraged her to make her decision.

Ms. Samawi explained about her various positions on campus, “On paper, there were a couple of roles I was going to fulfill, but because I was on zoom, I wasn’t able to start many of them until this year,” which included working with the CSGC board and advising the International Student Alliance. She felt “a readiness and a craving” to begin with her new roles going into the 2021 – 2022 school year.

Ms. Samawi added, “Coming into any new place is usually a very humbling experience because no matter how skilled you are, once you go somewhere new, there is always something new to learn. I am grateful that the Deerfield experience is different than anything I know because it’s exciting and I get to learn so much.”

As she began teaching Arabic at Deerfield, Ms. Samawi knew that, unlike King’s Academy, Arabic was not the language of the majority at Deerfield, and that she needed to brainstorm ways in which she could make the language more livable for her students. 

Through Arabic movies, songs, lessons on Arabic calligraphy, conversations with Arabic-speaking King’s Academy students, and discussions on current events occurring in Arabic-speaking countries, Ms. Samawi provides a personal, fun, and enriching learning experience for her students that also gives them a window into Arabic culture. 

Ella Foulkes ’22, a student in Ms. Samawi’s Arabic Ⅳ class, shared, “Ms. Samawi is extremely committed to bringing the Arabic culture to Deerfield and empowering her students to explore it.” She added, “She not only supports our Arabic studies, but she also cares about our success as Deerfield students and as people.” 

Ms. Samawi continues spreading awareness about Arabic culture outside the classroom through Deerfield’s Arabic Club, Ya Hala, with whom she is hoping to travel to Jordan later this year.

“I certainly admire and love the students who are taking Arabic,” Ms. Samawi commented. “I know how much courage it takes to study that language, so I love the classes and the different moments we spend together learning, singing, and acting.”

In addition to her passion for Arabic, Ms. Samawi also enjoyed working on the flag presentation with the International Student Alliance because she was able to meet many new students who approached her to share their stories for the ceremony.  

Antonia Forero ’22, a co-chair of the International Student Alliance, said, “Ms. Samawi works to make Deerfield a better place for international students by making them feel welcome and seen while simultaneously giving American students a sense of the international perspectives they’re surrounded by.” Forero added, “She tries to make [her students] leaders, giving us responsibility while helping us along the way.”

When asked about traits that make Ms. Samawi unique, Associate Dean of 9th and 10th grade Rebecca Melvoin, colleague to Ms. Samawi, highlighted, “[Ms. Samawi’s] exuberance and love of life are infectious. She always has a genuine greeting and a desire to help others.”

Ella Davies ’24, a student living on Ms. Samawi’s hall in HS Ⅱ agreed, saying, “Ms. Samawi is always such a positive presence which really helps our hall. She provides a sense of comfort and it’s really easy to be yourself around her.” 

Describing her roles at King’s compared to her roles at Deerfield, Ms. Samawi emphasized how her role as the Director of the Arabic Year Program at King’s is similar to her work with the ISA and that her role as a class dean at King’s helped her connect with students through meaningful conversations, instilling in her an open mind for anything she could experience at Deerfield. 

Ms. Samawi said, “It’s hard for me to try to create something or really reach the best of my experience if I think that I am only here temporarily. I see myself staying [at Deerfield] for now as I am learning a lot and I love the community.”

Foulkes emphasized, “I definitely look up to Ms. Samawi and I know I have a lot to learn from her about the Arabic language and culture.  I also admire the way she interacts with the world.”

Whether through teaching Arabic, advising the ISA and CSGC board, or making HS Ⅱ feel more like home for her students living on the hall, Ms. Samawi has touched the lives of many community members and Deerfield is very lucky to have her.