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Making her way to Morocco

Sophia Carpentier

While most high school students are looking forward to kicking back and relaxing this summer, East Ridge High School sophomore Sophia Carpentier is looking forward to continuing her learning.

Carpentier will be leaving June 18 for an eight-week language program in Morocco where she will study Arabic.

Carpentier earned an all-expense paid scholarship with National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) through the U.S. Department of State.

“There’s a lot of opportunities that can come from learning a language,” she said. “It’s a great way to learn about other cultures in this world and it kind of just opens a lot of doors.”

Carpentier’s sister Madelyn traveled to Russia in 2012 as part of the same program.

An interest in Arabic

Carpentier, who lives in Woodbury, isn’t a complete stranger to the Arabic language, having studied it for the past two summers at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji.

“It’s so different from English, so I guess that’s why I was interested in it,” she said. “Plus it’s spoken by so many people in so many places that it’s valuable for the U.S. to be able to communicate with people because when you can’t communicate, misunderstandings happen.”

Arabic isn’t the easiest language to learn, Carpentier said, because it not only uses different characters for letters and words, but it also uses unique sounds.

“The letters look very strange and their appearance changes depending on where they are in a word,” she said. “Plus, a lot of the sounds we don’t use in English, so they are pretty hard to pronounce correctly.”

Traveling abroad

For the NSLl-Y program, Carpentier had to go through an extensive application, essay and interview process.

“It’s pretty long,” she said. “But, going to a different country is kind of a big deal.”

The essay and interview questions asked Carpentier a number of different questions such as why she wanted to study Arabic and how she would adapt to the different culture. 

While in Morocco, Carpentier will be staying in the capital city of Rabat with a host family.

She will attend school five hours every day where she will be working on her Arabic language skills along with the other scholarship recipients. Carpentier said there are about 20 other students going from the United States.

Evenings will often consist of other activities and programs.

On the weekends, she will have the opportunity to travel with students as they get to know Morocco culture and its language.

“It will open my mind to learning new things,” she said of the program. “It will let me step out of my comfort zone and be more open to trying new things.”

Morocco’s Arabic dialect has a strong French influence, making it quite different from the modern, standard Arabic that Carpentier will be studying.

“It will be interesting to hear the differences,” she said.

Carpentier has been preparing for her trip this summer by brushing up on her basic Arabic and mentally preparing for being away from home.

Additionally, she has had to head to the mall to get some new clothes.

“I kind of need to revamp my wardrobe because it’s a more modest society there,” she said, “but I’m trying to find modest clothes that are light because it’s really hot there.

“I’m definitely trying to be pretty cautious because I don’t want to be seen as ‘that American.’”

Carpentier said she is excited to learn the language, experience the culture and try the food in Morocco.

“Sometimes we have predisposed thoughts about what people who speak Arabic are and what they do and I would like to get rid of those,” she said. “I’m looking forward to just being completely immersed in the culture and being able to really see how life is so different over there.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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