UChicago students win 11 Critical Language Scholarships from State Department

The U.S. Department of State has awarded Critical Language Scholarships to 11 UChicago students who will spend the summer learning languages overseas.  

These highly competitive scholarships pay all expenses for students to spend the summer in countries where Arabic, Persian, Chinese and Russian, among others, are spoken.

“These students realize that significant proficiency in another language and culture enables them to more fully access information about their primary topic of research or study,” said Catherine Baumann, director of the University of Chicago Language Center. “They are setting themselves up to be internationalized scholars in their respective fields.”

Through the CLS scholarships, the State Department is trying to dramatically expand the number of Americans who speak languages identified as important for global relations. Recipients of the scholarship are expected to continue their language study and to apply their language skills in their future professional careers.

Yevgen Sautin, a master’s student with the Committee on International Relations, said he hopes to make a substantive improvement in his Chinese language skills while learning as much as possible about the local culture and history.

“I’ve found that language study is essential in order to understand international relations,” he said.

He will live in the city of Suzhou this summer, and speak Chinese for the entire duration of his stay.

Scholarship winners are sometimes students who have only begun their language studies. Emily Gerdin, a fourth-year student in developmental psychology, took Arabic classes starting her fourth year, and is considered an “advanced beginner” in the program.

This summer she will live in Morocco. She hopes that learning the language will inform her research on the effects of ethno-religious conflict.

“If everything goes well, I will be able to communicate with the people whose culture and conflict I’m studying,” she said. She hopes to be able to ask people questions and understand the nuance in their responses through her in-country experience.

Gerdin participated in a study abroad program in Jerusalem during her undergraduate studies. Separately from her CLS scholarship, she is also studying Hebrew.

She will return to Israel through a Fulbright award after her summer studying Arabic in Morocco. She says she is looking forward to “making friends and learning about the environment in these countries.”

“It’s hard to be completely immersed in learning a language when the language isn’t spoken by everyone. In Morocco, I hope to be able to spend my day thinking only in Arabic,” she said.

The 8 graduate student and 3 undergraduate winners, with their host countries and languages:

Anna Hazard, Tajikistan, Persian

Samuel Hodgkin, Tajikistan, Persian

Emma Kalb, Tajikistan, Persian

Wesley Milillo, Indonesia, Indonesian

Antonio Musto, Tajikistan, Persian

Michael Peddycoart, Tajikistan, Persian

Yevgen Sautin, China, Chinese

Samee Sulaiman, Morocco, Arabic

Rafael Abramovitz, Russia, Russian

Emily Gerdin, Morocco, Arabic

Matthew Schweitzer, Morocco, Arabic