STARTALK: Sarah's Story


A natural disaster in Taipei led to Sarah’s family moving to the United States when she was eight years old. She struggled to learn English at first but over time developed a love of language learning. In the summer of 2009 she began her study of Arabic in a three-week residential STARTALK camp on the campus of Brigham Young University. Weeks later she was in Egypt and spent her junior year there as a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholar. She became adept in communicating in Arabic and also absorbed a great deal of knowledge about the Arab world and culture as she lived with a host family and became a part of their daily lives. NSLI-Y arranged for her and others to travel all over Egypt, grow in understanding for its rich history, and take part in community service. She also received ten hours of private language tutoring per week. Sarah is now studying Arabic at BYU and plans to teach it in a high school.

Of her initial experience with Arabic she wrote: “My participation in the Arabic Startalk program laid out my foundation for Arabic learning. What I learned in that month took me further than what some students learned in three months while living in Egypt. The program was well-organized, and the daily immersion in the language and culture helped me develop reading, writing and speaking skills.”