One Missourian, Two Illinoisans Among Rhodes Scholars

Associated Press
CBS St. Louis

A 22-year-old graduate from Northwestern University who speaks fluent Arabic and works with orphaned children in Egypt was named Sunday as a prestigious Rhodes Scholar winner.

Sarah Smierciak of Lemont said she was shocked to hear the news. The awards provide all expenses for two or three years of study at Oxford University in England. The 32 winners were selected from 830 applicants endorsed by 299 different colleges and universities. The scholars enter Oxford next October.

“It’s such an honor to be surrounded by such intelligent people who are so motivated and who really want to do good in the world,” Smierciak said.  Smierciak graduated from Northwestern in June, majoring in history and in Middle East language and civilization. Since then, she has worked in a suburb of Cairo, teaching street children and working at a transition house. She plans to do graduate work in development studies at Oxford and get a doctorate degree, and dreams of someday becoming an adviser for the United Nations.

Professors describe her as humble, outgoing and a motivated student who has a gift for learning language: Smierciak went from having no exposure to the Middle East in a suburb west of Chicago to becoming fluent in the language in a few short years.

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