Government junior Sarah Majzoub said she is taking Arabic courses so she can land a national security internship.
The United States lacks Arabic speakers, she said, so studying the language will help her get a good job.
"Since we are still at war, they need a lot of people to speak Arabic, especially with intelligence gathering," Majzoub said.
Across the country, students are choosing to take both Arabic and Chinese classes because the countries where those languages are spoken are hot spots of activity, Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association said in an e-mail.
From 2002 to 2006, enrollments in Chinese and Arabic language courses increased more than any other foreign language in American colleges and universities, according to a Modern Language Association report released Tuesday. The report cites that the number of students in Arabic language courses grew by 127 percent from 2002 to 2006, while the number of students taking Chinese doubled.
"The more than doubling of Arabic enrollments moved the Middle Eastern language onto the top 10 most studied list for the first time," the report states.
Jane Moore, executive assistant to the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, said the Arabic program at UT has enhanced itself with a flagship program with some of the most esteemed professors in the nation.
The National Security Education Program handed the Department of Middle Eastern Studies a $700,000 grant to establish a language program in Arabic, said Chelsea Sypher, the program coordinator for the department. The program, which requires students to study four years of Arabic at UT and to spend a year and a summer abroad in the Middle East (particularly in Syria), began June 1 to enable students to reach superior levels of Arabic.
"The government realized after Sept. 11, 2001 that there were not enough people who could speak Arabic at a high level for national security reasons," Sypher said. "This program is a great segue into working for the government."
Moore said students who study Arabic at UT go on to become members of the CIA, FBI or foreign affair and army officers.
The number of students majoring in Arabic language and literature studies has increased from six in 2002 to 25 students in 2006, according to UT's Office of Information Management and Analysis. The office also lists the number of students majoring in Asian culture and language studies as increasing - from 82 students in 2002 to 128 in 2006.
Camilla Hsieh, a senior lecturer in the Department of Asian Studies, said more students are claiming Chinese as a major and a minor because China is rising as an economic and political world power.
There are eight sections for beginning Chinese, compared to the six sections available three or four years ago, Hsieh said.
"A lot of business and engineering students are taking Chinese because it is a professional skill," she said. "If you know Chinese, you have an edge over potential candidates in the workforce."
There are 332 students enrolled in Chinese classes for the fall 2007 semester, while 262 students enrolled in these in 2002, Jennifer Tipton, graduate coordinator for the Asian studies department, said in an e-mail.
Heather Thompson, senior program coordinator for UT's Center for Global Education Opportunities, said the number of people studying abroad in China has also increased.
The number of students studying abroad in China, excluding participants in a business program, has doubled from 2004 to 2006.
Spain was the top choice for study abroad until last year when the United Kingdom took the top place, Thompson said. This was due to the development of a faculty-led Maymester in the United Kingdom.
Enrollments in Spanish, French and German language courses represent 70 percent of students enrolling into foreign language courses, according to the language association's release.