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Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill.

Nine students from across the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study less commonly taught languages during Summer 2022.

The Carolina awardees were chosen from a pool of over 4,500 applicants from 583 different higher education institutions. The recipients will further their language studies in Russian, Arabic, Indonesian and Swahili, spending eight to 10 weeks at intensive language institutes around the world.

“The high number of awards is a testament to Carolina students’ dedication to language learning and excellence,” said Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs. “It is also a strong reflection of the quality and commitment of Carolina’s language instructors.”

The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to dramatically expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. It provides fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences.

Arabic was among the highest pursued languages in the 2022 CLS Carolina scholar’s cohort. Wasan Issa ’24 is among the recipients who chose to further their Arabic language learning.

“My passion to learn Arabic and to develop a thorough understanding of the culture derives from my goal to pursue a diplomatic career in the Middle East and North Africa region,” said Issa. “As an Arab immigrant, I have also always desired to reconnect with my culture, and I believe becoming fluent in my native tongue will help me with that aim.”

As they did the last two years, many institutes will offer virtual programs this summer. Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future careers.

Darian Allen ’23 views the CLS award as a steppingstone in a service career.

“I have been serving in the Marine Corps for nine years, and I knew that going back to school, and studying a critical language would set me on a path to serve my country in a different way,” said Allen, who now aims to become a Foreign Service officer.

“UNC has done a great job with creating the foundation of my language learning, but through complete immersion, CLS will continue to reinforce that foundation and allow me to gain proficiency at a higher level,” Allen said.

More than 50,000 academic and professional exchange program participants are supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Part of the bureau’s mission is to increase diversity among international educational exchange program participants and promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Visit the CLS website for more information, or contact Adnan Džumhur, CLS campus advisor, to learn more about the award and support available to applicants. The competition for Summer 2023 will open in Fall 2022.

2022 Critical Language Scholarship Recipients

  • Darian Allen ’23, a double major in peace, war, and defense as well as Russian, will study Russian.
  • William Burnham ’23, a double major in geography and biology, will study Indonesian.
  • Wasan Issa ’24, a double major in health policy and management major as well as peace, war, and defense, will study Arabic.
  • Yueun Kang ’24, an interdisciplinary studies major (international journalism), will study Russian.
  • Megan Mcintyre, a first-year Ph.D. candidate in city and regional planning, will study Arabic.
  • Molly Ruebusch, a biology major, will study Arabic.
  • Roariker Swenson ’25, a double major in economics and global studies, will study Russian.
  • Colton Treadwell ’23, a double major in peace, war, and defense as well as Russian, will study Russian.
  • Alinda Young, a Ph.D. candidate in global public health, will study Swahili.

By Maeve Cook ’22, UNC Global

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