Rising Ferrum College junior Jared Worley, of Chesterfield, VA, has been accepted into an eight-week Arabic language immersion program at Vermont’s prestigious Middlebury Language Schools. Worley plans to attend the program that runs this summer, from June through August 2020; however, if he doesn’t get the amount of government funding he needs, he will postpone until summer 2021. “Either way, I’m going,” he said.
The application process for Middlebury’s language immersion programs was competitive. “I wrote a letter saying why I would like to take part in this program,” said Worley. “It’s pretty uncommon for an underclassman to get an opportunity like this.”
Worley is a history major at Ferrum College and chose to study Arabic, in part, because of the material he learned from his academic advisor, Assistant Professor of History Michael Hancock-Parmer. “Dr. Hancock-Parmer helped clear my mind of all the misconceptions between our two cultures. Our cultures are actually pretty similar,” explained Worley. “As a future historian, I feel if I can speak it and read it, then it will one day help me break down this divide.”
Worley is also autistic but doesn’t view the autism as a barrier. “I think it’s actually helped me,” he said. “Around age four I started experiencing communication deficits that continued until I was eight or nine. That time helped me learn to take a backseat and listen sometimes. I know when to observe and listen, and when to speak.”
Middlebury’s language immersion programs, which count for twelve semester hours, instruct students to commit to the Language Pledge, which requires them to use only their target language. Worley will pledge to read, write, speak and consume only Arabic-language media for the full eight-week program period; speaking in English is a violation of this commitment. But Worley says he is okay with taking the Language Pledge. He said the hardest part for him will be the separation from his family.
Worley is also a member of the Ferrum College wrestling team. Finding extra time to train for the upcoming season may be difficult, but he has the full support of his wrestling coaches. “I’m so excited and proud for Jared,” said head wrestling coach Nathan Yetzer. “We always encourage our guys to get outside of their comfort zones in order to grow as people. I believe Jared will definitely grow as a result of this program. He is going to do great things and is a testament to hard work and being an ‘all-in’ type guy.”
Hancock-Parmer and the rest of the history department are proud of Worley’s acceptance into the program. “Jared’s attendance at Middlebury for Arabic this summer is a wonderful achievement for himself, and also for Ferrum College and the history program,” said Hancock-Parmer. “He’s special to me because he was on fire from the first day of class we had together. He did the work, of course, but more importantly, he had his eyes open and asked great questions, the kind for which I did not always have an immediate, easy answer. I only hope we can continue to challenge and push him toward his full potential.”
Learn more about Middlebury Language Schools and the Arabic Immersion Program here.