CLS Persian 2014
PhD Candidate, Princeton University Department of Religion
Why did you want to study your CLS target language?
As a student of Islamic studies, it is crucial that I develop high proficiency in Arabic and Persian, my languages of research.
What are your educational and/or professional goals?
I hope to become a professor of Islamic studies and broader religious studies.
How do you plan to use your target language in the future?
In pursuit of my PhD, I will be using Farsi extensively for personal research. Specifically, I plan to both interview Farsi-speakers and read Farsi texts while investigating modern religious practices.
How did participation in the CLS Program affect your life?
Participating in the CLS program not only enabled me to develop a level of proficiency in Farsi that I would not have attained through university courses alone, it enabled me to build personal and professional connections with other individuals who have similar goals and interests. Additionally, spending two months abroad with a host family in a place that presented me with many daily challenges taught me how to take advantage of learning opportunities that pull me out of my comfort zone.
What was your favorite part about being in your host country?
I loved waking up in the morning and knowing that I was in the middle of a great adventure. Getting accustomed to the nuances and daily surprises of life in an unfamiliar part of the world is exciting and eye-opening.
What did you learn about your host country that you didn't know before?
Before going to Tajikistan, I had no idea how diverse the country was. I knew that there were some minority populations, but it was amazing to walk down the street and pass by Uygur restaurants, to hear people speaking Uzbek as well as Russian and Tajiki, to learn about Pamiri ethnic groups. You can never appreciate the richness of a country until you get there.
Please share a short story about your CLS Program experience.
When we were on our way back from a CLS trip to Khojand – a city in the north of Tajikistan – the driver of the car that I was riding in was wonderfully friendly. He gave every participant in the car a Tajik name and wanted to know how we liked Tajikistan so far. I told him how much I appreciated all of the fresh fruits and vegetables, especially the apricots. For the rest of our four-hour trip through the mountains, he pulled over at every apricot vendor on the side of the road, had me sample some, and then bargained hard with the seller to get me a great price when I eventually found the apricots that I liked best. Another friend of ours in the car had his guitar with him, and our driver asked us to sing, so we sang some tunes that we all knew, and he just loved it. I'll never forget that driver or those delicious apricots!
What is your favorite target language word or phrase, and what does it mean in English?
My favorite Tajiki word is "tarbooz" which means watermelon. My favorite Persian Farsi expression is "moosh to ro bokhore." It literally means "a mouse should eat you," but they use it to mean "you're so cute!"
What is a must see or must try in your host city or country?
Everyone who goes to Tajikistan should try to make it to Iskanderkool. It is an amazing lake filled with glacial run-off water in the middle of gorgeous, snow-capped mountains. A beautiful waterfall is just a few minutes' hike from the lake.
What advice would you give prospective applicants, participants on the program, and/or recent CLS alumni?
Take advantage of all of the networking opportunities that CLS presents. Other applicants, other participants, other alumni are all people who more likely than not share a set of common interests with you. Both my Farsi proficiency and my overall knowledge about the region and the culture increased when I took the time to learn from my fellow participants. Furthermore, among ourselves we have shared leads on jobs, funding opportunities and more.
I was born in Japan, and lived there until I was four years old, but after that I grew up mainly in Minnesota.
Apart from learning foreign languages I love mountain climbing, hiking, yoga, cooking Middle-Eastern food and horseback riding.
I have four brothers, but no sisters. I am also half-British, and am a dual citizen.