The freshest news and views from the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District
Friday, May 13, 2016
Cuyamaca College student receives U.S. State Department language scholarship
Rachel Becker didn’t know anything
about the Arabic language until she became close friends with two Iraqi
refugees who were classmates at Cuyamaca College. Now the 21-year-old Spring
Valley resident is on her way to Jordan through a fully-funded, U.S. Department
of State-sponsored immersion program to study the language while living with a
host family over the summer.
“I’m very excited about going to
Jordan, living with a host family, learning the language and becoming immersed
in the culture,” Becker said. “It’s an experience of a lifetime. I just hope to
learn as much of the language as I can.”
That shouldn’t be a problem. Becker
will undergo approximately one academic year of university-level Arabic
coursework during the eight-week program, and she is not allowed to speak
English while in school or with her host family.
She’s also pretty determined.
“She was one of my best students,”
Arabic instructor Aklas Sheai said. “She did a great job in my class.”
Becker leaves San Diego May 31 and
will study at the Jordan Language Academy in Amman with 26 other Americans
accepted into the Critical Language Scholarship Program. The Critical Language
Scholarship Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of
Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Selected finalists
hail from 48 states and the District of Columbia, and represent more than 200
institutions of higher education from across the United States, including
public and private universities and community colleges.
Over the past 10 years, the
Critical Language Scholarship Program has sent more than 5,000 American
undergraduate and graduate students overseas to learn critical languages all
over the world. It provides fully-funded, group-based intensive language
instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. Critical Language
Scholarship Program participants are expected to continue their language study
beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future
represents the best of Cuyamaca College, College President Julianna Barnes
College is deeply committed to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Barnes said.
“We are so proud of Rachel and know that this opportunity will allow her to be
both linguistically and culturally equipped to succeed in our multicultural
plans call for earning a master’s degree in Arabic and perhaps working for the
State Department or a nonprofit in the Arabic-speaking community. She graduates
this spring, but will be out of the country during her June 1 commencement at
motivation to learn Arabic evolved from both faith and fate. Becker, who is
Christian, felt it her duty to learn more about the Arabic culture and language
after she became friends with the two Iraqi classmates.
calling in life is to love and obey God and to do good by others,” she said. “I
knew nothing about the Arabic community, a community that is growing in the
East County, and these are my neighbors. You really can’t know your neighbor
unless you can speak their language and understand their culture.”
discussing her interest in learning Arabic, an acquaintance doubted she could.
“He said he didn’t think Americans could learn Arabic,” Becker said. “I took
that as a challenge.”
almost immediately enrolled in Arabic courses at both Grossmont and Cuyamaca
colleges. It wasn’t easy. The alphabet was unlike anything she had seen before.
“The language has a lot of sounds you don’t hear in English. The grammar is a
lot different. The first semester was very difficult.”
the instructors were determined. And the setting at Cuyamaca College is perfect
for those wanting to learn the language. “It’s extremely helpful to learn
Arabic at a college that has such a large Arabic population,” Becker said.
“You’re hearing the language being spoken all the time.”
while she is “far, far, far from being fluent in the language,” Becker has a
ready Arabic reply when asked if she’ll be able to join in those conversations
upon her return.