I also was really able to see my progress, as it was especially evident today. We had a practice speaking session for the oral component of our final exam and I clearly understood the questions that were being asked of me. I was able to answer in coherent and complete sentences. At the beginning of the program, I knew a few words that could help me get around in daily life, but now I feel I have progressed to a level of proficiency that will allow me to delve further into the culture of the middle eastern country that I happen to be in, and even to converse with my professor back in the states upon my immediate return. To understand a culture, I've realized, it's essential to know the language. So much of a culture is understanding the nuances of the language which often get lost in translation. In literature for example; reading a translation of an original text is significantly different than knowing and comprehending the original words and meanings behind the words.
Cultural context is another aspect of living abroad that I will never again take for granted. People make references in Arabic about regional people, tribes, and cultural aspects, that even an Arabic scholar might not understand because he or she has not lived in that certain country.
And finally, I realized how difficult progressing in the intermediate level is going to be. The jump from the beginner level to the intermediate level is tremendous, though from intermediate to advanced is much less evident.
Side note: One thing I probably won't miss, is the 115 degree weather and the lack of greenery in my surroundings. I also will not miss not being able to walk around by myself, even during daylight hours.