Last month on April 9th, we had our annual Global Engagement Day at Farzaneh Hall. I attended the info session for the Fulbright and Critical Languages Scholarships.
One student had studied Arabic through the CLS program. The other had done CLS for Russian, and he had just won the Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Russia during the coming year.
I have entertained the idea of trying to complete a CLS application for a couple of semesters now. I have been studying Russian since coming to OU, and while I am planning on studying abroad in St. Petersburg in the Fall of 2019, CLS focuses solely on building language skills. This could be just what I need to really become fluent in Russian.
The students had a lot of advice about how to be a competitive applicant for CLS. They advised starting on the application early, participating in events and organizations to really show that you are interested in pursuing language fluency, and writing essays that really emphasize using your knowledge of other cultures to build up international relations between the United States and the country of study.
The young woman who had studied Arabic through CLS also gave a lot of advice in getting through culture shock. She explained that you probably will not get very much time alone at all, that even when you are home with your host family, they will be checking in on you and wanting to spend time with you to make sure that you are doing okay. She also told us how she had difficulty coming to terms with always having her hair covered and not being able to be in the room with the men while she was at her host family’s home. Since these are customs we do not have in the United States, it was hard for her to adjust to them while she was abroad. However, she said that learning to see these sort of things from her host father and host brother’s point of view — that they thought of seeing her hair as an invasion of her privacy and her dignity — made it a lot easier for her to understand why people act as they do.
These student speakers shed a lot of light on applying for CLS and the Fulbright Scholarship, and they also gave fantastic advice on going through the actual study experience and how to make the most of it. If I do apply this next semester like I am thinking of doing, I think that I am much better prepared than I was before.