A Passion for Bridging Cultures

Tyler Karty, BA ’16 Arabic, Crop and Soil Sciences

Tyler Karty is used to the puzzled look he receives when he tells people he’s studying Arabic and Crop and Soil Sciences. But to him, he’s just pursuing his two passions and it was at Michigan State University where it all made sense.

At MSU, Karty has worked on soil science research while at the same time has practiced his Arabic skills. The recent graduate also was accepted into the Presidential Internship Program at The American University in Cairo, and in August, will move to Cairo, Egypt, where he will work for a year as an intern for the Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment (RISE), a research center that does agricultural extension work and tackles environmental problems in Egypt.

“I have been training to do this for a long time, so I am pretty pumped,” said Karty, who graduated in May with a BA in Arabic and a BS in Crop and Soil Sciences. “The opportunities I’ve had at MSU have placed me in this position. And because of the classes and the great professors I’ve had here, I’m able to speak Arabic very well, which will allow me to jump in head first.”

“By being able to understand and show a commitment to Arab people, we can bridge the gap between the cultures and increase understanding among us.”

Karty first saw his two majors come together in Professor Alvin Smucker’s Soil Biophysics Lab at MSU where he has worked for the past year and a half doing research on sandy soils with a focus on improving water retention and irrigation efficiency. While working in the lab, Karty practiced his Arabic skills as he worked with a researcher from Syria as well as an Iraqi soil scientist, who the lab hosted for a month.

“This job has jump-started my career. Not only have I worked in sandy soils, but I also got to practice my Arabic. It’s kind of crazy that I am able to do all these things at MSU. I feel really fortunate,” Karty said. “And now I have a Crop and Soil Sciences degree and Arabic and can use them both at once. There are lots of possibilities.”

Karty was first drawn to MSU by its Arabic program.

“Michigan State University is one of the top schools in the nation for Arabic,” he said. “I came here knowing I wanted to study Arabic; it is something I always wanted to do.

“With all the Muslim nations around the world, being able to understand and speak Arabic is extremely important. We need Americans who are able to understand Arabic-speaking people and their culture, especially in this day and age when there is so much hatred toward Muslims and Arab people. By being able to understand and show a commitment to Arab people, we can bridge the gap between the cultures and increase understanding among us.”

Tyler Karty

And the best way to understand another culture, Karty says, is to learn the language.

“Knowing another language is so rewarding. It’s one of the things I love most about my life right now,” he said. “I really have been able to enrich my life and meet lots of different people who I would never have been able to speak to before.”

When Karty first came to MSU, he was part of the Arabic flagship program and studied Arabic his freshman year. He then applied what he learned by traveling to Morocco for an intensive summer Arabic program where he spoke only Arabic the entire time he was abroad.

“You don’t think about how tiring it’s going to be trying to constantly translate things in your head or trying to express yourself,” he said. “But that was part of the learning process, and my Arabic skills drastically improved. I think that serves me still today.”

Eventually, Karty would like to go to graduate school to study agronomics or soil sciences.

“I don’t think I will be able to make a big difference in the world unless I have more education, so that is definitely in my future,” he said. “But before I do that, I need to speak some Arabic first.”