IN SEARCH OF FARSI INSTRUCTION by Salvatore Sciandra III


At the beginning of my senior year, I was rather unsure about my choices after graduation and somewhat nervous about my career prospects. However, through the MESP listserv I learned about a very exciting program which offers subsidized language training and facilitates future employment: the Boren Scholarship through the National Security Education Program (NSEP).

After applying, I was fortunate to receive a Boren Scholarship to study Farsi during the 2008-09 academic year. The scholarship provides students with the means to enroll in language immersion programs in regions seen as critical to American security interests. Recipients of the scholarship need to show a high degree of academic performance, demonstrate their commitment to serve in the United States government, illustrate a willingness and ability to live overseas for an extended period of time, and show that they have devoted time to learning their chosen language beforehand. There is, however, an obligation for scholarship recipients to serve the U.S. government for at least as long as the studies were funded. NSEP helps simplify the often arduous and strenuous task of obtaining a government job. Because I had already seriously thought about working for the government, this component of the program was ideal.

The Boren Scholarship only provides the money for studying abroad; the prospective student must research and apply to in- stitutions that offer courses in the language they intend to study. Since I only have one year of Farsi instruction under my belt, finding a suitable program was rather difficult. While there are dozens of institutions that offer Arabic programs in the Middle East, there are only a handful which teach Farsi. Eventually, I found an organization, American Councils for International Educa- tion, which offers Farsi-language immersion in Tajikistan. Granted, Tajikistan is not in the Middle East and the Persian spoken there has a more classical form than what is spoken in Iran today, but one must seize opportunities wherever they arise. From September to May, I will be in Tajikistan, living with a host family and taking accelerated courses in Persian. During my stay, I will maintain a language pledge whereby I am required to speak only Farsi with my peers and professors. If that makes you think my Farsi must be very good, you are mistaken. So, on that note, I had better start practicing!