Town Talk Features

Student Standouts: 8.21.19

jane miller » visitation academy 
Senior Jane Miller realized at an early age that studying foreign languages is an important way to build bridges between cultures. She applied for the U.S. Department of State’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) and landed a scholarship to study Arabic in Jordan. Jane was one of only 660 teens in the country chosen for the program, which includes formal instruction and rich cultural experiences. “Immersion is incredibly helpful in studying a language,” she says. “You interact with it 24/7, from hailing a taxi and ordering at a restaurant to talking with locals. You’re constantly challenged to learn vocabulary you wouldn’t think of in the classroom.”

How did you learn about NSLI-Y?
From a friend who participated a few years ago. I was interested immediately, but I missed the deadline that year, so I researched the program during my sophomore year and began the process as a junior. I filled out an online application, was named a semifinalist and completed an in-person interview. A few months later, I found out I was accepted. I’m the first Visitation student to take part in the program.

What was it like studying in another country?
It was an incredible experience. I studied Arabic at Qasid Institute in Amman, Jordan, and lived with a host family. I learned in the classroom and immersed myself in the culture to better understand a different way of life. The host family stay was beneficial by pushing me out of my comfort zone socially and linguistically. I also got to travel to sites like Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea.

What do you like about studying languages?
Learning them is like putting together a puzzle. I love piecing together the grammar and vocabulary patterns while making connections to other languages I’ve studied. It’s very interesting to me, which helps me stay motivated.

Why did you choose Arabic?
I was inspired to learn it after volunteering at a summer day camp for immigrant and refugee children at the International Institute in St. Louis. Many of the kids spoke Arabic. I loved working with them and hearing the language, so I decided to give it a shot.

Does studying languages help you do well in other subjects?
Learning Arabic has helped me develop study habits that definitely will assist me in school. The fast-paced nature of the program kept me on my toes and challenged me to get creative. I don’t know yet what I want to do as a career, but I’m confident that my knowledge of languages, particularly critical ones like Arabic, will be beneficial in any field.

What advice do you give to students who find languages difficult?
Studying any language is hard, and it is tempting to give up, but the best way to stay motivated is to keep practicing. One of my favorite ways to keep up with language learning is to add subtitles to Netflix shows. It’s simple but effective.

As part of its sponsorship, Sport Court has made a donation to The Cornerstone Center for Early Learning on behalf of Jane.

Photo: Nathan Viotti