NSA STARTALK Grant Supports Chinese Language Camp

The University of the South and STARTALK are excited to announce their collaboration on STARTALK—Sewanee Chinese Language Camp, an immersive language study camp with a focus on environmental sustainability and outdoor recreation for high-school students in grades nine to 11. Taking place from June 15 to July 1, the camp offers attendees the opportunity to earn college credit for their participation. This year, the program will be completely free for participants thanks to a grant of over $200,000 from STARTALK. Managed by the National Security Agency (NSA), STARTALK grants provide funding for innovative programs with strong language learning outcomes in languages identified as being of critical need to the United States. 

This will be the fourth iteration of a Chinese language camp for high school students at Sewanee, but is the first one to be provided in collaboration with STARTALK. Over the first few years of the program, Sewanee has hosted over 50 students from all over the U.S. to study Chinese and enjoy the many outdoor recreational opportunities available on the Domain, including: biking, hiking, caving, swimming, and whitewater rafting. 

“Summers in Sewanee are amazing, and what better way to make the language real and exciting than exploring the Domain while also being immersed in the language,” says Marcus Murphy, program director of the camp and instructor of Chinese at the University. A former high school language teacher, Murphy recognizes the importance of students taking their language studies out of the classroom and “into the wild,” noting that the camp offers a chance to do so in a sustainable and exciting way. 

One lens through which camp participants will explore environmental sustainability—and other aspects of Chinese culture—is tea. “As a part of this grant, we will be planting around 30 tea plants at the University farm and producing our own green tea next summer,” says Murphy. “Tea is a perfect cultural product to deeper explore the perspectives and practices of China, and it is very exciting that we can easily do that here in our backyard.” 

Interested students should apply by December 15. More information about the camp, including eligibility and application requirements, is available here

In addition to the Chinese language camp, Sewanee will also host Spanish and Russian language camps for high school students this summer. More information about those programs is available here.