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University News

Brown leads Ivies in gov’t language scholarships

Contributing Writer
Thursday, October 27, 2011

This past summer, Brown led the Ivy League in the number of students awarded prestigious Critical Language Scholarships, winning 11 of the 600 total awards. The scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Government, provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves for a summer in the study of one of 13 “critical” languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Urdu.

The scholarship, which was founded in 2006, is the best way to develop critical language skills, said Mirena Christoff, senior lecturer in Arabic and Arabic coordinator for the scholarship at Brown.

The entire program — from flights to lodging to spending money — is paid for by the government. Though a free trip abroad may seem like a vacation, 2011 scholarship winner Jonathan Bateman ’13 said “it’s a very intense program.”

Bateman, a former Herald sports photo editor, is currently studying abroad in Amman, Jordan. He said his Arabic improved dramatically because of the scholarship. Though he said his first weeks in Amman were difficult, the constant exposure to the language gave him confidence. When he returned to Amman for his semester abroad, he was able to “hit the ground running.”

The program has been popular since it began — an average of seven or eight Brown students have won scholarships each year for the past five years.

Despite Brown’s success with the program, Christoff, who also serves as an admissions officer for the scholarship, said the University name has no impact on a student’s chances. The applicant’s school is not revealed until after he or she has been awarded the scholarship.

Elsa Amanatidou, director of the center for language studies, said the University is supportive of students interested in applying, though the process is mostly independent. That independence may be the key to students’ success with the program. “Brown students take the initiative, do their research,” Christoff said.

She added that the New Curriculum teaches students to write well, make informed decisions and think independently. Stefanie Sevcik GS, who participated in the scholarship’s Arabic program, said the New Curriculum draws students who are more likely to study obscure languages.

Brown’s academic policies surrounding this program have furthered students’ abilities to enrich their academic experience in a new environment. “You can study anywhere,” Bateman said, “but you can’t get the experience anywhere.”

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