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Four Connecticut College students are gearing up for a summer of intensive language study and cultural immersion abroad. Each of the students has received a Critical Language Scholarship from the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to study abroad for up to 10 weeks in an intensive language program.
CLS scholarships cover the language program costs, including travel, room and board. Students must demonstrate a commitment to and strong love for a language in this highly selective program.
This marks the first time Conn has had four winners in one year. Past recipients from the College have gone on to land prestigious scholarships, including a U.S. Fulbright Student Program grant and a Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, and have been admitted to top graduate schools, including Georgetown, Duke and Harvard University.
Monk, the founder and president of the Student Refugee Alliance at Conn, will study Arabic for nine weeks in Tangier, Morocco.
An international relations and global Islamic studies double major and Arabic minor from Bainbridge Island, Washington, Monk has wanted to learn Arabic since she first visited Morocco at age 11. She is passionate about languages and has studied both Hindi and Spanish while living with host families and teaching in India, tutoring in Guatemala and working on a coffee farm in Costa Rica.
At Conn, Monk is a scholar in the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, a student representative on the Refugee Relief and Education Committee, a Walter Commons fellow and a senior editor of HER Campus. In Morocco, she will live with a host family, receive intensive language instruction and work with a local language partner to explore the country and the culture.
“I am most excited about living with a host family,” Monk said. “Not only will this be a fantastic way to improve my Arabic, but it is extremely rewarding to forge lasting connections with people across cultures.”
Next summer, Monk plans to complete her CISLA internship in Spain, working with a UN or government organization focused on refugee relief and education and using Spanish and Arabic to translate between refugee families and local aid organizations. As a senior, she plans to apply for a Fulbright fellowship to an Arabic-speaking country.
“My dream job is to work for a government or UN agency in Europe and expand educational opportunities for refugees,” she said. “Although many people lack access to education, working with refugees during my time at Conn has made me realize that their exclusion from this basic right is a particularly grave problem.”
Rancourt, a Slavic studies and history double major and accomplished cellist from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, will study Russian at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
After several years of studying Spanish, Rancourt’s interest in the Russian language was sparked by Slavic influence on world history, literature and music.
“As a cellist, I appreciate the contributions of Russians composers to world culture. I especially enjoy playing pieces by Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky,” she said. “Russian is exciting and challenging for me.”
At Conn, Rancourt is a scholar in the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, serves as a Russian and Spanish language tutor and plays the cello in the College’s orchestra and chamber groups. This will be her second time studying language abroad; in the summer of 2017, she spent six weeks studying Russian in Chisinau, Moldova, as part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program.
“I am eager to learn about the Kyrgyz culture, because Central Asia is very unfamiliar to me,” she said.
Following her critical language fellowship, Rancourt is looking forward to applying her improved Russian skills to her language courses and tutoring sessions at Conn. She is interested in applying for either a research or teaching Fulbright fellowship and hopes to eventually teach English for speakers of other languages, Spanish, and Russian at the secondary level.
Reilly, a French and international relations double major and Arabic minor from Southington, Connecticut, will study Arabic at the Noor Majan Training Institute in Ibri, Oman.
Reilly says she can’t pinpoint exactly when she became interested in Arabic, but she knew she wanted to apply to a college that offered Arabic instruction. As a scholar in the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts, Reilly studied in Rabat, Morocco, last spring and then spent the summer interning with the Association des Bibliothèques Scolaires et des Ressources d'Apprentissage in Tunis, Tunisia.
“Both of these experiences allowed me to practice my French and Arabic skills while giving me some experience with Moroccan and Tunisian dialects of Arabic,” she said.
Reilly, who will graduate from Conn in May, is looking forward to being immersed in an Arabic-speaking country and living with a host family. She hopes to use the experience as a stepping stone to begin a career in translation or with research and analysis-based NGOs. Her ultimate goal, she says, is to work in intelligence or with the foreign service.
“I am hoping this opportunity can help me develop the path to pursue these goals,” she said.
Willis, a Slavic studies major and government and linguistics double minor from Rockfall, Connecticut, will study Russian at the KORA Russian Language Center in Vladimir, Russia.
“I started teaching myself Polish as a junior in high school and I really fell in love with the language. That’s what convinced me to become a Slavic studies major at Conn and led me to start taking Russian classes,” Willis said.
Last summer, Willis, who serves as the vice president of Conn’s Gaming Club, studied Polish in Kraków, Poland. This summer, he is looking forward to living with a host family in Vladimir and experiencing the daily life of a Russian family for 10 weeks.
Willis says winning the Critical Language Scholarship is already opening his eyes to new career paths, including the possibility of working for the U.S. State Department. After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and apply for a Boren Fellowships, an initiative of the National Security Education Program that provides unique funding opportunities for U.S. graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests.