Scholarship sends Hampton graduate to China to study the language

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Penn State University student Sarah Newby, 21, of Hampton plans to spend June and July studying Chinese in China.

Newby recently earned an all-expenses-paid trip to Asia through the U.S. Department of State-sponsored Critical Language Scholarship Program.

“They give fully funded, study-abroad trips to study and master what the government deems is a critical language ... Chinese is one of them,” said Newby, daughter of Walter and Kathy Newby.

Beginning June 10, Newby will spend at least four hours a day in Chinese classes at Xiamen University in Xiamen, China, a city on the southeast coast of China, near Taiwan.

“It will be hot,” Newby said.

“China doesn't have widespread air conditioning.”

For eight weeks, Newby and her American classmates will try to forget their own language.

“For those eight weeks we are not permitted to speak English,” Newby said.

“Twenty of us are going. There are students from all over the United States,” she said. “It'll be fun. I'm looking forward to going to a karaoke bar and singing in Chinese.”

Newby's scholarship covers air fare, housing and visa fees. It also includes a $1,200 stipend for food and local travel.

She was expected to depart Pittsburgh on June 5 and join fellow scholarship winners in Washington, D.C., before she takes off for China.

The U.S. Department of State's Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program aims to boost the number of Americans mastering “critical” foreign tongues.

Chinese, Japanese and Russian are among currently “critical” languages, along with Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish and Urdu.

Wen-Hua Du, director of the Penn State University Chinese Program, praised Newby's enthusiasm for Chinese culture and her passion for learning.

“She is surely an active student in her class, willing to help and share what she knows with her fellow classmates,” said Du, one of Newby's college instructors.

“This past semester, Sarah was also one of the emcees for a Chinese Program-wide event,” Du said. “She was willing to spend extra time and effort to coordinate with other emcees ... and made the event a great success.”

In her spare time at Penn State, Newby counsels victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault as a trained volunteer and hotline worker for the Centre County Women's Resource Center in State College.

Newby registered for her first Chinese language class at Penn State after fumbling with another foreign tongue in high school.

“I took Spanish. I didn't like it,” said Newby, a Hampton High School Class of 2010 valedictorian. “Chinese came easier to me than Spanish, which is not supposed to happen,” she said.

Newby now plans to graduate from Penn State's Schreyer Honors College with bachelor's' degrees in both Chinese and biochemistry. Her career plans include possibly working for a pharmaceutical firm, or in bio-security for the U.S. Government.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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