Imagine getting to spend ten weeks of your summer vacation in another country, learning another language, for free. As a semi-finalist for the Critical Language Scholarship, Junior Diplomacy major Ian Murphy may get to do just that.
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an “intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities.” According to the Critical Language Scholarship website, the program includes intensive language instruction in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian, which are languages all offered at Seton Hall. The structured ‘cultural enrichment’ experiences promote rapid language enhancement for students who attend.
CLS is part of a wider government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages deemed critical to national security and economic prosperity. CLS plays an important role in preparing students for the globalized aspect of today’s workforce and hopes to increase national competitiveness among language students.
Murphy’s love for languages is long standing. “I’ve tried to study Russian beforehand,” he stated, “but something just told me to take [Chinese] in college, and I’ve really fallen in love with it.”
“I heard about [CLS] from Dongdong Chen,” Murphy said, referring to the Languages Literature and Cultures professor. Murphy said that the Chinese program at Seton Hall is “really close” and that Chen got him “really passionate about the language.”
Chen also helped Murphy in his United States International Exchange Youth Program (IEYP) trip this past summer. He stated that while he had a great leaning experience with IEYP, CLS would be able to open different doors. CLS has culture and language classes, Murphy told the Diplomatic Envoy, “and on the weekends or during free time they send you on little cultural excursions.”
The CLS program was a huge opportunity for Murphy. He said, “I was actually interested in this freshman year, so it’s been something on my mind for two years.” He was physically excited during his interview. “They put you with a host family, which is so cool,” he said.
Only learning about the CLS program deadline three days before it was due, Murphy was scrambling to get everything done. “I ran around, got my documents ready,” he said. “I even learned how to use the scanner in the library.”
The first steps only require a resume, transcripts, and the answers to a couple of specific questions. “It was a relatively straight forward and easy application,” Murphy claimed. “They make it easy on you.”
Murphy learned about his semi-finalist status through an email. “It actually didn’t say congratulations at first and it gave me a mini heart attack,” Murphy exclaimed. However, once he read that he had become a semi-finalist, he found that there were many more documents and forms he had to fill out. Murphy stated that there are still multiple steps to take before he can celebrate; he still has to get to the finalist stage and apply for a visa.
“After you apply for your Visa,” he stated, “it’s not up to CLS, it’s the country’s government that accepts or declines you.”
His advice for anyone who wants to apply in the future is to “have a strong bond with teachers because their recommendations can make or break an application.” He said that you have to have passion for your language attending cultural lessons on campus and in New York City, and that it is important for students to seek out professionals on campus whether or not they are in your program. He also stated that it is important to remember that you are a cultural ambassador.
“You’re representing not just you,” Murphy said, “but the State Department and the United States government.”