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May 12: Three Carnegie Mellon Students Study Arabic Abroad Through U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship Program


Abby Houck

Three Carnegie Mellon Students Study Arabic Abroad Through
U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship Program

PITTSBURGH—Three Carnegie Mellon University students will spend the summer abroad developing their Arabic language skills through the U.S. Department of State's Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program.

Scholarship recipients are Anthony Kuhn, a junior history and policy major from Monroeville, Pa.; Jessica Wille, a senior international relations, policy and management major from Pittsburgh; and Megan Larcom, a senior business administration and international relations and politics major from Middletown, R.I.

"Anthony, Jessica and Megan are good examples of how global issues have taken center stage at our university and why language study plays such an important role," said Stephanie Wallach, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education and director of the Fellowships and Scholarships Office.

The CLS Program, founded in 2006, offers summer language programs abroad in 13 critical-need foreign languages. The programs include intensive, group-based language instruction and structured cultural enrichment activities. Participants complete the equivalent of one year of foreign language study during the 8-10 week courses. They also are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period and apply their language skills to their future careers.

Carnegie Mellon's Modern Languages Department began offering Arabic courses during the 2008-2009 academic year, and students are able to cross-register for courses at the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Linguistics.

"We have talented faculty teaching Arabic at our Pittsburgh and Qatar campuses and plan to continue to develop the curriculum," said Susan G. Polansky, head of the Department of Modern Languages.

Kuhn has been studying Arabic for two years and will attend the Alexandria Centre for Languages in Alexandria, Egypt. Kuhn hopes to put his knowledge of Arabic to work in the future through graduate school and as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service.

"The invaluable language skills and cultural awareness that comes from enrolling in an intensive-language course abroad will help me to make these interests a reality," Kuhn said.

Wille has been studying Arabic for three years and also will attend the Alexandria Centre for Languages. She previously studied Arabic at the Al Akhawayn University Summer Program in Morocco and spent the fall 2009 semester teaching English to Arabic speakers at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Denmark. In addition, she participated in last year's Initiating Meaningful Pittsburgh and Qatar Ties (IMPAQT) trip to Carnegie Mellon's branch campus in Doha, Qatar. The trip provided an opportunity for Wille to converse in Arabic with native speakers.

"While I have been learning Modern Standard Arabic, which is a formal version of the language, the people I met used conversational language," she said.

Wille plans to pursue a career that combines her interests in language, international development and Islamic integration.

This summer is the second time Larcom will study abroad through the CLS Program. She attended a program in Tunisia last summer and will attend a session in Tangier, Morocco, this summer. This year's program will be co-hosted by the American School in Tangier and the American Institute for Maghrib Studies.

Larcom also immersed herself in Middle Eastern culture by spending six months at Carnegie Mellon's branch campus in Doha, Qatar.  Last year, she returned to the campus through the student IMPAQT trip.

"If I hadn't come to Carnegie Mellon, I certainly would not be taking Arabic," Larcom said.  "Furthermore, if Carnegie Mellon had not had a campus in Doha, I probably would not have pursued this scholarship."

Larcom, who will receive her bachelor's degree at Carnegie Mellon's commencement May 16, plans to use her knowledge of other cultures following completion of the CLS Program. She has been offered a job with IBM Global Consulting and has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to Egypt.