Two West Virginia University students passionate about learning a new language and immersing themselves in cultural experiences will travel abroad this summer as recipients of the highly competitive U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.
The scholarship program seeks to expand the number of Americans studying languages that are essential for the United States’ engagement with the world.
Ariana Burks and Matthew Kinzer, both West Virginia natives, will spend two months learning Arabic and Japanese, respectively.
Burks, a junior double majoring in international studies and geography with a minor in Arabic, will head to Nizwa, Oman. The Beckley native has always been interested in international politics and the idea of cultural immersion. As someone who hopes to have a career with a government agency, including the State Department potentially, she recognized the importance of studying a critical language like Arabic.
“I honestly just started it because I thought it would be fun,” she said. “As I've gotten deeper and deeper into the Arabic program, I have found that I really enjoy learning about the language, so I think it would be amazing to be able to understand the language and connect to the people. It’s just a big chunk of the world and tremendously different than Western culture.”
Although she is excited to visit the Middle East for the first time, the language immersion is the biggest draw of the program for her.
“In West Virginia, I can go to Arabic classes, but it’s not the same,” Burks said. “I'm not going to be able to speak English for two months, so it’s going to force me to really pay attention and learn. It’s definitely going to force me to learn Arabic. I hope by the time I’m finished with the program I’ll be able to read and understand the language better so that I’ll be able to learn more on my own.”
Critical Language Scholarship program includes intensive language instruction
and cultural enrichment experiences. Recipients serve as ambassadors representing
the diversity of the United States and build lasting relationships with people
in their host countries. They are also expected to continue their language study
beyond the scholarship and to apply their skills in their future careers.
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Burks and Kinzer worked with the WVU ASPIRE Office to apply for the scholarship.
Students who are interested in this scholarship or other nationally competitive awards
can contact the ASPIRE Office at
firstname.lastname@example.org and set up an appointment to discuss their options.
MEDIA CONTACT: Lindsay Willey
Director of Marketing and Communications
WVU Honors College