Study Abroad for Free

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The United States Government has created a little-known scholarship program that allows students studying a critical language an opportunity to study aboard for free.

The Critical Language Scholarship Program, which was created in 2006, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, and sent 631 students overseas last year alone, according to the program’s website.

“The Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS) provides students with a unique opportunity to travel abroad to learn a language that is critical to U.S. national security while being fully immersed in the culture of the country where the language is spoken,” said Meghann Curtis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Programs. 

If a student is proficient in Arabic, Azerbaijani (spoken in southwestern Asia), Bangla (spoken in Bangladesh), Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi (spoken in India and Pakistan), Russian, Turkish or Urdu (spoken in sough Asia), the government will consider a student for the scholarship.

Katie M., a sophomore at Franklin and Marshall College, is currently studying Arabic and was emailed by her professor about the scholarship.

“I was really considering it because it sounds like such a great way to really advance in my Arabic,” said Katie.  “But much of the application has to do with how it will relate to your future job, and I'm not sure that I have an answer for how it would [relate].”

Students who grew up speaking any of the critical languages are also eligible for the scholarship, which takes place during the summer.

“The CLS Program is equivalent to approximately one academic year of language study,” according to the program’s website.

“If students are interested in learning a new language that would contribute to their future desired job, this is a really wonderful opportunity,” said Katie.

“Upon returning to the United States, most CLS students continue their language studies, both formally and informally, and go on to successful careers in academia, government, NGOs and the private sector, where their language skills are in high demand,” said Curtis. 

Applications for CLS are due November 15th. 


Image: Center for International Studies

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