For Fushcia-Ann Hoover, this summer brings a particularly exciting international opportunity.
Hoover, a December 2009 St. Thomas graduate, left yesterday for Tunis, the capital city of the Tunisian Republic in Africa, to study Arabic. She is one of 575 of nearly 5,300 U.S. student applicants who were awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship for study of Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Persian, Russian and Indic (Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu) and Turkic (Turkish and Azerbaijani) languages.
U.S. students spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes this summer in 15 countries where these languages are spoken. Recipients also support their language studies through cultural immersion activities. They then are expected to continue their language study and apply their skills in their future professional careers.
Hoover, whose major was mechanical engineering and Middle Eastern studies, applied for the program last November after Antoine Mefleh, who teaches Arabic at Macalester College, told Hoover's class about the opportunity.
"Ideally," Hoover said, "I want to combine my Arabic with engineering but I haven't figured out how I will make that happen yet – perhaps working overseas in an Arabic-speaking country or even going to graduate school overseas are a few possibilities I am considering."
Scholarship recipients represent all 50 U.S. states, a range of academic disciplines and many U.S. colleges and universities in a merit-based selection process. The state department launched the program in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical-need languages overseas. The program is part of a wider U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering those languages.
For more information about the Critical Language Scholarship program or others supported by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, see these websites: www.clscholarship.org and exchanges.state.gov.
It's a 5,100-mile ride from Hoover's home in St. Paul to Tunisia, but she says it's a "great chance to better my Arabic skills. ... I am doing this because I really enjoy the language and like the challenge it brings and the rarity in the number of people who study it!"