Students Win Scholarships to Learn Understudied Languages

Daniel Castro Bonilla, Sarah Bashir, and Isabel Udell

Sarah Bashir ’20 will study Persian in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, this summer with a Critical Language Scholarship from the US Department of State.

Daniel Castro Bonilla ’17 also received the CLS scholarship to study Chinese in Changchun, China, this summer.

And Isabel Udell ’19, a double major in government and Asian studies, was awarded a fully-funded opportunity through the U.S. State Department’s Boren Scholarship program to study Hindi in Jaipur, India.

Each year, the US Department of State awards high-achieving students with Critical Language Scholarships to expand the number of Americans trying to master 14 understudied languages it deems essential to its foreign policy, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.

“CLS scholars [550 this year] gain critical language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security,” the State Department says on its website.

With her Boren scholarship, Udell will spend this summer at UW-Madison studying Hindi intensively followed by her semester in India. Isabel spent a summer studying Hindi during high school through NSLI-Y, another U.S. State Department program, and looks forward to building on that foundation of cultural and linguistic knowledge.

Udell’s professional goals lie in foreign policy where she would be able to contribute her linguistic skills and regional knowledge to help build democratic institutions, diffuse radicalism, and forge peace between various ethnic factions within India, India and its neighbors, and India and the U.S.

In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for at least one year.

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