Four University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students have received fully funded scholarships to travel abroad this summer to study languages considered crucial to the United States’ future security and stability.
This year’s Critical Language Scholarships recipients will be studying Chinese, Russian, and Arabic.
Sue Choi, of Nashville, Tennessee, a rising senior double majoring in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology and in neuroscience with a minor in Chinese, will be going to China to study Chinese. “Chinese is a significant part of my life as it humbles me through learning about different people and their culture, thus preparing me to be a more patient and understanding future doctor. Although the Critical Language Scholarship program is known to be challenging, I believe that UT’s Chinese program has prepared me well to quickly adapt to the intensive nature of this new environment,” she said. “During the two months I will be there, I plan to not only practice Chinese but also engage in the culture by making local friends, trying a lot of different foods, and also visiting other places nearby.” At UT, she is co-president of the Chinese Culture Club.
Meghan Gragg, of Franklin, Tennessee, a rising senior majoring in global studies and Middle East studies, will be going to Ibri, Oman, to study Arabic. “I am so excited to get this opportunity to study my target language intensively in a country that speaks that language,” she said. Gragg spent the fall of 2018 studying in Morocco in the School for International Training’s Migration and Transnational Identity program through an Elaine A. Evans Middle East Studies Scholarship and a Partner Award from SIT and UT’s Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships. A member of the Chancellor’s Honors Program, she is involved with the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature on campus, and she hopes to work with nonprofits helping undocumented immigrants and refugees in the future.
Mateos Hayes, of Knoxville, a rising senior studying history and Russian, will be going to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to study Russian. “I am thrilled at being selected,” he said. “It presents me with an invaluable opportunity to further broaden my cultural horizons and my language skills. These assets will be invaluable for me in my future career in international law.” Hayes spent the fall of 2017 interning with Armenian Assembly of America’s Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program, which gives students of Armenian descent the opportunity to get hands-on experience with the policy-making process in Washington, DC. He worked two summers and a month in the winter for the US Department of State in Kampala, Uganda. At UT, he has been active with the Student Government Association and has been a columnist for the Daily Beacon.
Katherine Yolitz, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a senior majoring in chemical engineering and minoring in Arab studies, will be going to Meknes, Morocco, to study Arabic. “I’ll be studying Modern Standard Arabic and the local Moroccan dialect at the Arab American Language Institute in Meknes, while also living with a host family,” she said. “I’m very excited and honored to have been selected . . . and be able to take part in an amazing opportunity to continue studying Arabic while being immersed in the language and learning about Moroccan life and culture.” Yolitz has been a Math Camp tutor, an undergraduate research and teaching assistant in the Tickle College of Engineering, and president of the Food Recovery Network, which collects and donates food after football games and campus events and from dining locations. She will graduate in May and begin working as a chemical engineer for Olin Corporation near Houston, Texas, after returning from Morocco.
The Critical Language Scholarship is a US Department of State program that seeks to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are less commonly taught in US schools but are essential for America’s engagement with the world. Students who receive the awards will spend eight to 10 weeks overseas learning one of 15 critical languages—Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, or Urdu—and will serve as ambassadors representing the diversity of the United States abroad and building lasting relationships with people in their host countries.
The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. Scholarship recipients are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and to apply their critical language skills in their future careers.
UT students interested in applying for the Critical Language Scholarship should visit the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships website to learn more about the program and to make an appointment with ONSF staff.
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, email@example.com)
Andrew Seidler, UT Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships (865-974-3518, firstname.lastname@example.org)