Tag: Critical Language Scholarship

Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan summer destinations for three students awarded U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarships

Strengthening their foreign language skills will be on the top of three Lawrence University students’ to-do lists this summer thanks to the U.S. Department of State.

Senior Mikaela, Stillwater, Minn., and juniors Jonathan Rubin, Marblehead, Mass., and Heidi Arnold, Oswego, Ill., each have been awarded a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program.

Marget and Rubin both will travel to Malang, Indonesia on the island of Java for eight weeks of language instruction in Bahasa Indonesian and structured cultural enrichment experiences. Arnold will spend most of her summer living with a host family in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, as part of a Russian language program.

Launched in 2006 by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the CLS program is designed to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity.

Marget, Rubin and Arnold were among 580 CLS recipients for 2018 selected from 6,000 applicants nationally. Since 2010, seven Lawrence students have received Critical Language Scholarships.

Mikeala Marget
Mikeala Marget ’18

For Marget, a cello performance major, the CLS will provide a return trip to Indonesia. A member of Lawrence’s gamelan ensemble — Gamelan Cahaya Asri — she spent two weeks in Bali learning the Balinese rebab, a string instrument somewhat similar to the cello.

“I did a whole project on that instrument, the social context within Bali and how the instrument functions within the musical ensemble. That really inspired me to learn the Indonesian language and come back,” said Marget, who described her CLS selection as “utter surprise.”

While she picked up pieces of Balinese during her first visit, Bahasa Indonesian is the country’s national language, which is what she will be studying this summer.

“It will be helpful to have been there before and knowing at least Balinese culture a bit,” said Marget. “I haven’t had much time to really get dig into Bahasa Indonesian yet, so I’m really excited to get there and learn.”

Marget, who will graduate June 10, hopes to eventually pursue graduate studies in ethnomusicology.

“Having a basis in a language I’ve been studying would be really helpful, not only for grad school applications, but also for personal development so that I can communicate better with the people I will be working with musically. I’ve done a lot with the Indonesian music and   having the language skills to be able to further study Indonesian music would be amazing. I’m really excited to be able to make more connections with people across the world.”

Sonja Downing, associate professor of ethnomusicology at Lawrence, who has worked closely with her, said she was “thrilled” Marget will be able to continue studying the Indonesian language,

“Mikeala’s important study on the under-researched Balinese rebab this past year for her Senior Experience and honors project, including ethnographic research and taking lessons during a to Bali, along with her experiences playing in the Balinese gamelan ensemble has sparked her interest in Balinese music and musical instruments, as well as in the field of ethnomusicology,” said Downing. “I expect this CLS opportunity to deepen her scholarly and musical questions and engagement with Indonesian performing arts and culture.”

Jonathan Rubin
Jonathan Rubin ’19

Rubin, a religious studies major, will join Marget in Malang on the same program. His focus on learning Bahasa Indonesian is to enhance his interests in studying how religion and globalization have shaped the country.

“I’m interested in how theological belief systems and moral paradigms are derived from religious texts, and how they’ve changed and developed over time,” said Rubin, who spent last fall studying abroad in Pune, India. “Indonesia is a perfect place to study this. It’s the world’s largest Muslim majority country, but the first Muslim there was Chinese. Beyond Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Animism and Hinduism all have established some roots there. That’s a lot of ideas coming into one place.”

While Marget had some prior exposure to the language, Rubin has been preparing for his summer in Java by self-teaching himself Bahasa Indonesian with the help of online programs.

“It’s just a beginner program because so few people outside the country speak Indonesian,” said Rubin, who began his language study just a few months ago. “When I took I took my OPI (oral proficiency interview) over the phone, I did well enough that the woman said she was surprised I had only taught myself.”

Rubin’s long-range goals are to earn a doctorate in theology and globalization and he sees being able to read Indonesian as huge advantage.

“Indonesia is one of these areas where I’m studying this specific sociological function of theology. I’m interested in the way the whole idea of religion and the way we apply theology, which is one of the largest existing literarily canon of all time, and how we apply that today, has changed because of globalization and how interconnected the world has become. I hope I can write about the language and globalization as really a history of applied theology someday.”

Martyn Smith, associate professor of religious studies, praised Rubin as “one of the most ambitious students” he has seen in his 12 years on the Lawrence faculty.

“He has taken advantage of many opportunities to travel and learn by seeing the world,” said Smith, citing trips to Dearborn, Mich., to see immigrant communities, visit mosques and speak with religious leaders, Morocco and Sierra Leone, Jamaica, and his study-abroad term in India. “The courses he has taken in religious studies and other disciplines have all tended toward expanding his view of the world and global challenges. The CLS grant will allow him to continue what he has been doing: to get a global perspective on the challenges that now face us.”

Heidi Arnold
Heidi Arnold ’19

Arnold, a German and Russian major, also will be heading to Asia, but considerably farther north. She will spend eight weeks in the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, a city of nearly one million near the border of Kazakhstan.

Her choice of majors may have been influenced by her upbringing: she grew up with a German father and a Russian mother, who graduated from Lawrence herself.

“They were always speaking other languages when they didn’t want me to know what was going on,” said Arnold of her life at home. “It sparked my interest. Now I love the language (Russian) and the culture. I want to get better at it so I can read books, understand the movies fully and speak fluently.”

Arnold’s scholarship is evidence of persistence. She applied for a CLS as a sophomore but went unrewarded. She applied again and this time was among the 2018 recipients.

“It’s so important when you study a foreign language to get practical experience with native speakers,” Arnold said of her retry.

While she still has one more year at Lawrence ahead of her, Arnold is contemplating career paths.

“I’ve considered becoming an immigration lawyer in some capacity or maybe working with international law in some way,” said Arnold. “I would like to have a few years of practical experience, maybe working for the State Department or another government agency. Or an NGO, that would also work.”

Peter John Thomas, one of Arnold’s Russian professors, says she has “an ear for new lexicon and usage.”

“For as long as I have known her, Heidi has planned to use her skills in Russian, Ukrainian, and German to research the cultural milieu of ‘Russia Abroad,’ especially the diaspora community in Germany following the Russian Revolution,” said Thomas, associate professor of Russian studies. “This program offers her an excellent opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge she needs to pursue her research.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Sophomore Nina Wilson heading to Russia as critical language scholarship recipient

For the second time in five years, Nina Wilson will polish her Russian language skills with an extended stay in Russia.

A head shot of Lawrence University student Nina Wilson
Nina Wilson ’19

The Lawrence University sophomore will spend eight weeks (June 18-Aug. 19) in the city of Vladimir courtesy of a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). Administered by the U. S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the CLS is a summer overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. Wilson is the fourth Lawrence student since 2010 to receive a CLS.

While in Vladimir, a city of nearly 350,000 people a little more 100 miles east of Moscow, Wilson will live with a host family and study at the KORA Russian Language Center.

A home-school graduate from Grayslake, Ill., Wilson got started on her Russian as a 12-year old. A Russian family friend who was teaching a class on Russian literature that Wilson was taking, asked if she wanted to learn the language.

“I was like, ‘okay,’” said Wilson, who is pursuing majors in government and Russian studies at Lawrence. “I’ve been studying it ever since.”

In 2012, Wilson participated in a high school version of the CLS program— the National Security Language Initiative for Youth — in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, previously known as Gorky, 150-miles east of Vladimir.

Even though she began her Lawrence career by taking third-year level Russian classes as a freshman, Wilson is looking forward to improving her reading and writing skills while in Vladimir as well as her language proficiency.


“Nina has been working hard towards her goal of becoming fluent in Russian. I have no doubt she will thrive in the intensive, immersive environment that the Critical Language Scholarship provides.”
— Victoria Kononova, assistant professor of Russian studies

“The area I am weakest in is speaking ability, so if I can have really solid conversations by the end of the program, I’ll be really happy,” said Wilson. “I’m just excited to see a new place, learn about history and culture there and visit more of Russia then when I was there in 2012.”

She is especially looking forward to enjoying the cuisine.

“I love Russian food,” she says enthusiastically. “My favorite dish is pelmeni which are these Russian dumplings. You can put chicken or potatoes or whatever in them and they’re really good.”

Victoria Kononova, assistant professor of Russian Studies, calls Wilson “an exemplary student: curious, dedicated, creative and always eager to try and learn something new.”

“Nina has been working hard towards her goal of becoming fluent in Russian” Kononova added. “I have no doubt she will thrive in the intensive, immersive environment that the Critical Language Scholarship provides.”

Despite the current rise in tensions between the United States and Russia, Wilson isn’t worried about any potential danger during her trip abroad.

“The main thing I’m concerned about is how to talk to people about politics and current events. I feel like there may be some potential disconnect if I am talking to my host family about the news since we come from very different perspectives. But I’ll also try to better understand where they might be coming from and have a healthy discourse.”

According to Kononova, Wilson’s interest in contemporary Russian politics makes it crucial she get first-hand experience with Russia and Russians.

“I hope that the CLS will help her get that kind of ‘inside knowledge’ and bring her closer to her ambitious academic and professional goals,” said Kononova.

The CLS was launched in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical-need languages overseas and expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Indic (Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu) and Turkic (Turkish and Azerbaijani).

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Meghan Murphy awarded critical language scholarship to study in Taiwan

Don’t blame Meghan Murphy if she isn’t 100 percent focused during the upcoming Spring Term final exams.

Meghan-Murphy_headshot_newsblog
Meghan Murphy ’18

The Lawrence University sophomore will have good reason for a little mind wandering. She needs to be in Tainan, Taiwan by June 8 — the final day of exams — as a recipient of a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Chinese.

Murphy, a double degree candidate pursuing majors in religious studies and violin performance, will spend eight weeks living with a host family in Tianan, a city of nearly two million on the the island’s southwest coast during the program.

The CLS program includes four hours a day of personalized, intensive language study as well as various activities and excursions designed to expand students’ understanding of the history, politics, culture and daily life of their host country. The scholarship covers all the program’s expenses and includes a $960 stipend.

Selected from more than 5,700 applications nationally, Murphy was among 560 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students awarded one of the state department’s critical language scholarships.

Murphy has been to mainland China three times previously, but this will be her first trip to Taiwan. She went to China with her family when she was 11 years old and spent a year in Beijing during a gap year before coming to Lawrence.

“Studying abroad gives you a lot of different perspectives and helps you mature,” said Murphy, a home-school graduate who lives in Milwaukee. “I had already taken four years of Chinese at UW-Milwaukee during high school so China was the logical place to go for a gap year before coming to Lawrence.”

“I’m excited about this trip particularly because Taiwan is a place I haven’t been before,” added Murphy, who took her first Chinese language lessons when she was 10. “Because of all the conflict between China and Taiwan and my experience becoming familiar with the Chinese perspective while living in China, I’m very interested in learning the Taiwanese side of the story.”

Meghan-Murphy_newsblog_1
Meghan Murphy spent 18 days in China last December as part of Lawrence’s “Sustainable China” initiative.

Murphy’s most recent trip to China was last December as part of Lawrence’s 18-day multi-disciplinary initiative “Sustainable China: Integrating Culture, Conservation and Commerce.” She was one of 12 students to participate in that program.

“I hope to continue applying what I learned on the Sustainable China trip particularly in relation to the intersection of religion beliefs and environmental awareness,” said Murphy.

Jason Brozek, Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government at Lawrence, who led the December “Sustainable China” trip, called Meghan “a terrific student with exactly the kind of broad, diverse interests we encourage Lawrentians to develop.”

“I had the pleasure of working with her over the course of several months as part of the Sustainable China traveling classroom and the critical language scholarship will be an excellent springboard for her future success,” said Brozek.

While her critical language scholarship may complicate the final weeks of Murphy’s Spring term, it’s a trade-off she’s more than willing to make.

“I’m always looking to experience new perspectives, so going somewhere new, having a host family to live with, and taking language classes is a spectacular opportunity.”

The CLS, a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, was launched in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical-need languages overseas and expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Indic (Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu) and Turkic (Turkish and Azerbaijani).

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Megan Brown Awarded U.S. State Dept. Critical Language Scholarship

Lawrence University student Megan Brown has been awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Arabic this summer at the American Center for Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan.

A senior linguistics major from Saginaw, Mich., Brown was among 575 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students awarded one of the state department’s critical language scholarships. She was selected from among nearly 5,300 applications.

Beginning June 13, Brown will spend 10 weeks in Jordan in a personalized, intensive language curriculum as well as various cultural activities. The scholarship covers all expenses during the 10-week program and includes a $1,000 stipend.

Megan-Brown_web
Megan Brown

Brown, who has studied Chinese and French in addition to one year of Arabic at Lawrence, says “accurate communication is more essential than ever before due to the growing globalization of the world and the growth of the information industry.” She hopes to eventually work for the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer and work “for more integrated international relations.”

The CLS program was launched in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical-need languages overseas and expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Indic (Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu) and Turkic (Turkish and Azerbaijani).