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Summer Awad, an anthropology student who just finished her freshman year, grew up hearing Arabic spoken at home but was never fluent in it herself.

That may change this summer when she spends eight weeks in Nizwa, Oman, on a US State Department Critical Language Scholarship.

Critical Language Scholarships give college students the opportunity to study abroad and take intensive courses in languages US student don’t often study—non-Western European languages that are crucial to US foreign relations. This year, the State Department awarded 610 scholarships in thirteen languages. The selected students represent all fifty states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and come from 200 different institutions. The scholarships provide funding for travel, housing, meals, and other expenses.

Awad, a Haslam Scholar, grew up in Knoxville, but her father is Palestinian. She just completed her second semester of Arabic at UT. She had known about the Critical Language Scholarships for several years, but almost didn’t apply for one.

“I didn’t think I’d get the scholarship as a freshman,” she said.

She learned about them while studying Chinese at Hardin Valley Academy. Then, as part of the Haslam Scholars Program, she took a course on national scholarships with Nicole Fazio-Veigel, assistant director of UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, who encouraged her to apply.

Awad applied to study Arabic and was then placed in at the University of Nizwa, one of seven locations where Critical Language Scholarship winners can study Arabic.

While there, she’ll have class four hours a day, five days a week, and about four hours of homework each night. On nights and weekends, she will do some sight seeing locally and meet members of the Nizwa community, with whom she can practice speaking.

She will be in Oman during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, which she says will be “a really cool time to be in the Middle East.”

She hopes she’ll be able to visit family in Abu Dhabi before returning to the United States.

The Critical Language Scholarship Program is administered by American Councils for International Education and The Ohio State University. For more information about the program or other exchange programs offered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, visit or


C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,