From Spanish to Arabic to English, Raage Sofe has long been interested in the study of languages. After taking Spanish through high school, Sofe intended to study the makeup of language as a linguistics major at BYU; however, he quickly realized his love of language extended beyond linguistics to the culture, people, politics, and traditions of countries. The Middle Eastern Studies/Arabic (MESA) major combined all of his interests with its focus on Arabic, Middle Eastern politics, and an in-depth study of Islam. His continued study of Spanish has helped him understand the “how” of learning a language before attempting to master a language so unrelated to English as Arabic.
From a small town in eastern Oregon, Sofe’s first experience with international affairs was his service as a missionary in the England London South Mission. He spent much of his time in inner-city London speaking with people from countries all over the world—immigrants from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean—along with native Britons on an almost daily basis and received assignments periodically to speak to Spanish and French wards. This rich immersion in cultures and languages made his mission a springboard for his interest in international affairs.
The Kennedy Center has supported Sofe during his journey toward an MA in international affairs and a study abroad in Jordan. His involvement in Model UN, Middle East Studies Arabic Students, and Foreign Service Student Organization, and networking events like the annual “Night of Diplomacy,” have pushed Sofe forward and helped prepare him for a career as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department. He also participated in BYU’s Washington Seminar during spring and summer 2011 while interning for Schramm, Williams, & Associates, an international trade lobby focused on agriculture. These experiences were critical in preparing Sofe with critical skills, like public speaking and networking, not necessarily taught in his classes that future employers will certainly be looking for.
The Boren Scholarship in particular was a driving force behind Sofe discovering the opportunities available in government work. This award prepares students with a background in foreign language to work in national security following graduation by sending them on an advanced study abroad to become an expert in a language critical to U.S. national security. As a MESA student, Sofe’s Boren award sent him to Amman, Jordan, as part of the BYU Arabic study abroad during fall semester 2011.
One of the unique opportunities associated with the Amman study abroad program is the chance Sofe has had to interact with native Arabs and see the culture and hear the language firsthand. He has had the chance to dive in and explore the culture along with the language and has learned how people in a different culture live, think, and act on a daily basis—something quite impossible to teach in a classroom.