Critical Language Scholarship Program | Sarah Whipple
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Sarah Whipple

Sarah Whip­ple is an alum­na of the 2017 CLS Ara­bic pro­gram in Mek­nes, Moroc­co. She is a ris­ing junior at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Dal­las study­ing Inter­na­tion­al Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my. Sarah is also an alum­na of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Lan­guage Ini­tia­tive for Youth (NSLI‑Y) Ara­bic pro­gram. On a day off, you can find her cook­ing, mak­ing espres­so drinks, film­ing and edit­ing videos, or going to a muse­um. After fin­ish­ing her under­grad­u­ate degree, Sarah hopes to attend law school and even­tu­al­ly work with refugees and asylum-seekers.

Ear­ly Inspi­ra­tions
When I was fif­teen years old, I spent the sum­mer in Mus­cat, Oman study­ing Ara­bic with the NSLI‑Y pro­gram. I went because I knew that I want­ed to work in the immi­gra­tion field and thought Ara­bic lan­guage skills would be help­ful. My expe­ri­ence on the NSLI‑Y pro­gram sparked a long-term inter­est in study­ing Ara­bic. After NSLY‑Y, I con­tin­ued work­ing in the immi­gra­tion field; I spent the past year at a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion in Dal­las that pro­vides immi­gra­tion ser­vices for low-income immi­grants. I am spend­ing this sum­mer work­ing at a cen­ter for LGBTQIA+ refugees in Cape Town, South Africa, where I help Ara­bic speak­ing refugees from all over the African con­ti­nent. Around cam­pus, I com­pete on UT-Dallas’s Mod­el UN (MUN) team and am in charge of the Dal­las-Fort Worth region­al MUN con­fer­ence. I have a fel­low­ship with the Unit­ed Nations Asso­ci­a­tion to work on human rights projects, and anoth­er fel­low­ship study­ing sys­temic injus­tice in the Unit­ed States’ immi­gra­tion and courts systems.

Mas­tery of Dialect
Although I stud­ied Ara­bic pri­or to vis­it­ing Moroc­co, I quick­ly dis­cov­ered that the Moroc­can dialect bears lit­tle resem­blance to Mod­ern Stan­dard Ara­bic, which is what I had been study­ing. At first, I had a real­ly hard time com­mu­ni­cat­ing with my host com­mu­ni­ty. On my first day in Mek­nes, I acci­den­tal­ly told my host fam­i­ly I was Rihan­na instead of say­ing I was tired. Nev­er­the­less, I tried to learn new vocab­u­lary as much as I could. In about a month, I was able to speak with my taxi dri­ver using the Moroc­can dialect for the whole dri­ve home from school. He was so impressed by an Amer­i­can speak­ing Moroc­can Ara­bic that he gave me the ride for free! This expe­ri­ence was very mean­ing­ful to me because it showed me that the con­scious effort to study a lan­guage real­ly can make a dif­fer­ence in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with others.

Bring­ing Back Host Cul­ture
UT-Dal­las is a pre­dom­i­nant­ly STEM uni­ver­si­ty, so lan­guage study is not a core com­po­nent of our cur­ricu­lum. One of the most impact­ful parts of return­ing from CLS was relay­ing the impor­tance of lan­guage learn­ing and study abroad to stu­dents at my home uni­ver­si­ty. I have found that most peo­ple do see the val­ue of learn­ing oth­er lan­guages, but may not think that lan­guage study is com­pat­i­ble with their degree pro­gram, or are not aware of the resources avail­able for lan­guage learn­ing. I was excit­ed to help UT-Dal­las stu­dents apply for the CLS pro­gram, and was able to work with stu­dents who study physics, mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing, com­put­er sci­ence, and oth­er under­rep­re­sent­ed fields in study abroad. 

In addi­tion to shar­ing my study abroad expe­ri­ence with oth­ers, CLS also taught me how to have more valu­able con­tri­bu­tions in dis­cus­sions with my peers about Ara­bic, Arab cul­ture, Islam, and pol­i­tics in the MENA region. The media and the gov­ern­ment have pro­ject­ed a view of Ara­bic-speak­ing coun­tries as dan­ger­ous, oppres­sive, and poor, leav­ing many Amer­i­cans with a myopic pic­ture of life in the region. Dur­ing my time in Oman and Moroc­co, I got to expe­ri­ence a small part of the cul­tur­al diver­si­ty of the Ara­bic-speak­ing world. I have lever­aged these expe­ri­ences in dis­cus­sions with my peers, and have addressed mis­con­cep­tions that peo­ple in my Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties have about the Arab world. While I still have a lot to learn, I am grate­ful for my CLS pro­gram because it allowed me to expe­ri­ence lan­guage and cul­ture much more inti­mate­ly than I could have in an Amer­i­can classroom. 

Bridg­ing Com­mu­ni­ties
Ara­bic is the fifth most spo­ken lan­guage in the world, so learn­ing Ara­bic auto­mat­i­cal­ly opens the door to speak­ing to mil­lions of peo­ple both in the Unit­ed States and abroad. In a lot of ways, Ara­bic has been politi­cized in the U.S., so I think it is more impor­tant than ever to have non-native speak­ers learn­ing and speak­ing the lan­guage. By learn­ing Ara­bic, I hope I can pro­vide ser­vices to Ara­bic-speak­ing immi­grants and build com­mu­ni­ty between native and non-native Ara­bic speak­ers. Although my inter­est in learn­ing Ara­bic stemmed from my pro­fes­sion­al goals, study­ing anoth­er lan­guage has helped me com­mu­ni­cate with com­mu­ni­ties I may not have oth­er­wise been able to inter­act with. Lan­guages are not just a col­lec­tion of words — they strong­ly influ­ence the way peo­ple think, feel, and identify. 


Alumni Profiles

Sarah Whipple
Sarah Whipple
Arabic 2017
Meknes, Morocco

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Posted Date

July 23, 2018