Critical Language Scholarship Program | Leah Berkebile

Leah Berkebile

Why did you want to study your CLS target language?
After taking a plethora of science classes, I wanted to diversify my course of study by taking classes in a language that I knew almost nothing about. After a semester of studying Arabic I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Dubai and completely fell in love with the Arab language and culture.

What are your educational and/or professional goals?
After graduation I hope to take a gap year to teach English and continue studying Arabic abroad somewhere in the Arab World. I then plan to attend medical school and eventually practice medicine in Middle Eastern refugee camps.

How do you plan to use your target language in the future?
As my goal is to work as a physician in the Middle East, it is absolutely crucial that I be able to have direct communication with my patients. Fluency in Arabic will allow me to practice medicine without needing a translator. Forming a trusting doctorpatient relationship is absolutely crucial to making an accurate diagnosis, so being both culturally and linguistically fluent would provide me with a significant advantage.

How did participation in the CLS Program affect your life?
Participating in CLS pushed me outside of my comfort zone both linguistically and culturally. I came to Morocco with only a very basic knowledge of Arabic and left with a far greater grasp of the language and culture of the Arab World.

What was your favorite part about being in your host country?
I loved having the chance to completely immerse myself in the Moroccan culture and language. Living with a host family and spending time with my Moroccan friends helped me make linguistic gains that I never thought possible in such a short amount of time.

What did you learn about your host country that you didn't know before?
Before coming to Morocco I had never experienced Ramadan in a predominantly Muslim country. It was incredible to see how much of a drastic effect the event had on daily life. Stores would open at 11 pm and stay open until 4 am in order to accommodate everyone's fasting schedules, and it would be completely normal to see children playing games of futbol in the streets til the early morning hours.

Please share a short story about your CLS Program experience.
When two of my fellow CLS participants and I decided to explore the souk in Chefchaouen, we wandered into a Berber healer's shop. He took each of us to the side and gave us blessings that involved him blowing on our face. Though it was really difficult for us to not burst out laughing while he was doing this, it ended up being one of the coolest and most surreal experiences I have ever had.

What is your favorite target language word or phrase, and what does it mean in English?
My favorite Arabic phrase that I learned this summer is "La shukran alla wajib." It translates to do not thank me for my duty, and people would use it as their way of saying "don't worry about it." I think it exemplifies the down to earth and caring personalities that many Moroccan possess.

What is a must see or must try in your host city or country?
Shopping in Morocco is completely different from the United States, and is definitely something that anyone visiting Morocco should experience. I always enjoyed using my Arabic skills in the souks to barter with the shopkeepers, and there were multiple occasions where shopkeepers would give me the "family discount" if I spoke to them in Arabic.

What advice would you give prospective applicants, participants on the program, and/or recent CLS alumni?
My best advice is to take advantage of any opportunity that you're given while abroad, even if it's out of your comfort zone. Immersing yourself in a new culture is all about experiencing life in a way that you would not be able to in the United States, and the greatest learning opportunities typically come from the experiences that make you uncomfortable.

Personal background
I was born in Alabama and have lived here my entire life. When I went to Dubai last year I became the first person in my family to ever travel outside of the United States. I enjoy watching Atlanta Braves Baseball with my dad, traveling, and being on the water.

Alumni Profiles

Leah Berkebile
Leah Berkebile

See More Profiles

Posted Date

April 27, 2015