URBANA — Two local University of Illinois students are headed to Jordan to study Arabic thanks to a national scholarship.
Political science and communications majors Enddy Almonord, a sophomore from Champaign, and Barghav Sivaguru, a senior from Mahomet, were awarded the David L. Boren Scholarship.
“I am beyond excited, with a small, healthy dose of anxiety,” Almonord said.
With the Boren Scholarship, Almonord and Sivaguru will be able to travel to the Middle Eastern country to attend the Qasid Institute for Arabic and receive $20,000 to help with costs. Both will be studying the Arabic language and culture. Almonord will be at the institute for eight months, while Sivaguru will stay for the entirety of the 2019-20 school year.
“Qasid has a great reputation for not only giving students an advanced level of Arabic, but a near-native proficiency,” Sivaguru said.
“If I’m devoting an entire year to just language study, that’s the level I want to be at when I leave.”
Of course, there is more to do at Qasid than just learning Arabic. Sivaguru said it offers students opportunities to work alongside various local organizations and trips to historic Middle Eastern locations.
“Aside from the language, I hope to learn as much as I can about the culture and customs of the Arab world,” Almonord said.
For Almonord, Qasid was the preferred choice over other institutions due to the prestige the school holds.
Both Almonord and Sivaguru decided to study Arabic because of how often the Middle East is discussed in politics.
Almonord added that she wants to better understand the relations of the United States and Middle Eastern countries.
Sivaguru, who said he enjoys learning new languages, speaks Tamil and Spanish in addition to English.
Among the requirements for Boren Scholarship winners is that scholars work for the federal government for at least one year.
Both said they hope to turn that opportunity into a career once they have completed grad school. Sivaguru said he hopes to work in the State Department as a foreign-service officer.
Asked for advice for those who want to study in a foreign country, Sivaguru said you cannot be afraid to try new things and take unfamiliar paths.
“I entered undergrad as a pre-med student, with the next decade or so planned out, only to figure out I was unhappy,” he said. “You can’t plan for everything, so just try to be adaptable.”
As excited as they are for this opportunity, both Sivaguru and Almonord said they will miss their family, friends and the UI. They said they know that living in a foreign country is not an easy task, but they’re up for the challenge.
“I’ve been around the university for most of my life, so it will be strange to live more than a few miles away from campus for such a long time,” Almonord said. “Since Jordan is a little more than a skip and a jump away, I will have to rely heavily on technology to stay connected to my friends and family back home.”
But there’s one person she is going to miss the most.
“I’m really going to miss my mom,” she said. “She’s the best.”