Two current students and a graduating senior have received U.S. Department of State Scholarships to study language abroad. Sophomore Sylvia Woodmansee received a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to participate in an Arabic intensive program at the Ali Baba International Center in Amman, Jordan, this August. With the support of the Critical Language Scholarship Program, first-year Isabela (Belle) Espinal will undergo eight weeks of intensive Hindi language instruction Jaipur, India, and senior Aki Gormezano will study Japanese at Dokkyo University while living in Himeji, Japan.
A Latin American studies major with a minor in Middle East North Africa studies, Sylvia Woodmansee began studying Arabic in fall 2012. “I’ve never been to the Middle East, and I want to bring my skills to the next level and learn Arabic in a cultural context,” says Woodmansee. “It is important to me to gain conversational abilities in Arabic and Spanish before I graduate, in the hopes that I can use these languages in a future career.”
Woodmansee is an Immerse Yourself in Service leader and a student leader in the Bonner Center for Service and Learning. She is also cochair of Tanwir, a student group with a focus on Middle East studies, and co-coordinator of the Nicaragua Sister Partnership. Although she is not a double-degree student, Woodmansee studies cello in the Conservatory of Music.
The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, selects approximately 700 undergraduates in the United States to participate in a study abroad or international internship program during the summer 2013 academic term.
The Critical Languages Scholarship (CLS) Program is part of a U.S. government effort to significantly expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. It provides fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences.
This year, the program selected 610 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 5,000 applicants. CLS participants will spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes this summer in one of 13 countries to study Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu.
By the end of her eight-week training, Belle Espinal will have gained a year’s worth of classroom language instruction. A comparative American studies major with interests in environmental studies, she is particularly interested in researching clean water solutions in India.
“I am committed to the multitude of issues stemming from and related to clean water access, and I believe that speaking Hindi will enhance my ability to provide the best type of water resources to a country that needs it. I want to go back to India to work and provide clean water solutions to people,” she says.
This will be Espinal’s first study abroad experience. In spring 2014, she will participate in the Border Studies Program in the borderlands of Tucson, Arizona. On campus, she is involved in La Alianza Latina and, as a Bonner Scholar, she works with America Counts at the local Boys & Girls Club.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me that would not have been possible without the Critical Language Scholarship,” says Espinal. “I was in shock when I learned I had this opportunity, and I cannot wait to share it with my peers in the fall.”
“Language is the key to a culture, and I want to immerse myself in the culture of Japan,” says Aki Gormezano, who is majoring in East Asian studies.
At Oberlin, he has played varsity soccer all four years. He is also an active member of the Oberlin Meditators. Following the CLS Program, Gormezano will be an English language instructor in Japan through the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program.
“This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was made possible by the support I received from my mentors in the East Asian studies department, the psychology department, and career services during my four years at Oberlin College.”