Hello My name is Olivier Baas, but my friends here know me as Oli. I am Dutch. My area of specialization is finance. I studied in Scotland. I first studied mathematics and statistics, and then finance and investment. Before coming here, I was working in a bank. I have been in Lebanon for five months. I was introduced to the Arabic language when I was studying in Scotland. I had many Arab friends there and they always used to speak Arabic around me so I asked them to teach me. My Palestinian friend started teaching me the alphabet and simple words. After I graduated from the university, I continued learning the language. In Holland, I learned from a Syrian friend. Since I was learning from different dialects, I decided to continue learning the language in a country where they speak the same dialect or a similar one. In the end, I chose Lebanon because I like the dialect and many people from Arab countries understand the Lebanese dialect. This is why I thought that if I want to choose one dialect, (The dialect of) Lebanon is better, it is the better one. On holidays here, I really like going around the country. I’ve gone on many trips with my friends here. I think I’ve seen almost all the country. When the weather became hotter, I started to go to the beach a lot on holidays. Another thing is that I really tried to make friends with Lebanese people here because I thought that if I seriously wanted to learn the language I would need to practice outside the class. I think the classroom is important, but practicing outside the classroom is much more important. Most of my friends here are Lebanese. I do things with them. But since they either work or study I usually see them at night and we go out. We have dinner together, smoke argileh (hookah) or go to the movies. I am now done studying in Beirut and I am going back to Holland in ten days. I am going first to Brussels to see my friends for a day or two, and then I am going to Amsterdam by train. I am going to see my Turkish friend. He is going to get married in September. He is having a party with his friends in Amsterdam and he has invited me as well. After that, I am going to my parents’ house, in the east of the country near the border with Germany. Then I’m going to Scotland. I have the wedding of my university friend there. I’m also going to talk with my professors at my university about the possibility of doing doctoral research on impact investment. In September, I have my Turkish friend’s wedding and I might like to take a little trip in the country. And after that, I’ll return to Holland. When I return to Holland, I would like to work in my area of specialization but I am looking for… a balance between the financial sector and doing something good for the world, for people or for the environment. I found a field in the financial sector called “Impact Investment”. Those are funds that invest in projects and companies which do good things for the world. The social and environmental impact of their operations is important to them. For example, some of the projects they invest in are: cultural projects, like education, environmental projects, such as solar energy or organic agriculture. Also, they are not NGOs since NGOs normally give or grant money, whereas the impact investment funds give the money as loans. The idea is that when the money is paid back, they can lend it out again. This way, they can help more people in the end. And even though they don’t focus on profit, they need to be able to pay their employees. So they charge low interest on their loans. But at the same time, they focus or target the impacts of their operations. This is the most important thing to them. For example, it is very important to them that people who usually cannot get money from the regular financial sector can now get money from them. For example, women in Africa or South America who want to open a shop or company can now get money from them. I studied Arabic in Beirut at the Lebanese Arabic Institute. I have been studying here for four months. I like the program at the school very much because I have learned a lot here. When I started here, I couldn’t speak well. I couldn’t understand much. But I really saw a big difference from one week to another. When I started working here, I studied more from the books. We focused on the grammar. Then we started watching videos and Arabic series and songs… I started writing stories about, for example, what I did yesterday, and we would talk about them in class. At the end, we started reading Modern Standard Arabic as well. Now, I am very pleased with what I have learned here. I can now understand a lot. I can usually say what I want to say. If I cannot say what I want to say, I can find another way in order to express the same idea. After my experience at the school here, I advise anyone who wants to learn the language to come to the Lebanese Arabic Institute.