By Gabe Sturges
Professor Sohaib Chekima came to Union in fall of 2010. In addition to teaching introductory Arabic, Chekima is a doctoral student at SUNY Albany, where he is working on two different theses.
Born in the U.S. to Algerian parents, his family returned to Algeria when he was two after his father received an engineering degree from RPI. After attending college in Malaysia for a year, he decided to immigrate to the U.S., though he knew very little English. Chekima ultimately received a degree in sociology from Hudson Valley Community College and a master’s in international business at SUNY Albany.
Having been raised speaking Arabic, Chekima originally had no intent to teach it; only after he applied for a position at SUNY Albany did he parlay that into a career.
During his time at Hudson Valley, Chekima taught Arabic to fellow students through the Muslim Students Association.
When he moved to the U.S., Chekima worried about orienting himself to his new school. His arrival marked newfound independence in his life, though the language barrier was very difficult. He credits his excellent command of English to spending time with his American friends, as opposed to his “own” people.
On his first return trip to see family in Malaysia, Chekima began to miss the U.S., his way of knowing that he had found a new home. As he puts it, this is where “I began who I am.”