Three St. Olaf students earn State Department scholarship
St. Olaf College students Jordan Brown ’16, Abbigail Hull ’17, and Anja Selland ’16 will spend the summer in an intense learning environment abroad after receiving a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.
The program, among the most competitive scholarship competitions in the country, sends U.S. students to language institutes around the globe as part of an effort to increase the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages.
The Critical Language Scholarship Program will send Selland to Russia, Hull to China, and Brown to Indonesia.
Learning the language, studying the environment in China
Hull will be studying at the Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China. In addition to 20 hours a week of structured language class time, she will live with a Chinese host family and participate in cultural excursions.
She will also take an optional environmental course that will focus on Chinese climate change and environmental policy — a learning opportunity that builds on Hull’s experience last summer studying the environmental and social effects of a government water and soil conservation station in Northwest China through St. Olaf’s Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program and the Luce Foundation Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment grant.
Hull also participated in the Asian Conversations program at St. Olaf, a learning community that introduces students to some of the key texts of Asia as well as key historical, cultural, political, and linguistic constructs through an integrated sequence of three courses. During Interim, students in the program travel to Japan and China to learn about the culture and practice the language firsthand.
“This opportunity with the Critical Language Scholarship program would not have been possible without the incredible study abroad experiences I have had through St. Olaf,” Hull says.
Exploring the culture, language of Russia
Selland will be studying at the KORA Russian Language Center in Vladimir, Russia. There she will participate in an eight-week program designed to cover the equivalent of one academic year of university-level Russian.
During her time in Russia, Selland will live with a host family and will be assigned a “language partner” — a local young person who is interested in cultural exchange.
Selland will also participate in a number of cultural excursions, including a trip to St. Petersburg.
While at St. Olaf, Selland has studied abroad through the Number Theory Interim program to Budapest, Hungary, and through the International Summer School in Oslo, Norway.
She also traveled to Honduras through the St. Olaf Global Medical Brigades program, which is part of a larger international nonprofit organization that works to alleviate global health and economic disparities.
“My work with St. Olaf Global Medical Brigades has been one of the most important and meaningful experiences for me at St. Olaf,” says Selland, who completed all of the pre-med requirements in addition to majoring in Russian area studies at St. Olaf. “In addition to running mobile medical and dental clinics, we worked directly with families to build eco-stoves, cement floors, and hygiene stations.”
An adventure in Indonesia
Brown, a classics major at St. Olaf, will be studying at the State University of Malang (UNM) in Malang, East Java, Indonesia. In addition to 20 hours a week of structured language class time, she will live with a Indonesian host family and participate in cultural excursions.
UNM is one of the oldest teaching institutions in Indonesia, dating back to 1954. It is widely considered to be one of the premiere institutions in Indonesia for the teaching of educators, professors, and teachers of Indonesian as a second language.
Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) is the lingua franca of over 250 million people living in Indonesia, an archipelago nation composed of over 17,000 island and the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
Applying skills to future careers
Participants in the Critical Language Scholarship Program are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.
An Asian studies and psychology major at St. Olaf, Hull plans to pursue a career in an international nonprofit organization that focuses on either the environmental sector or women’s empowerment and education in China.
After completing the Critical Language Scholarship Program, Selland will move to Moscow, where she has a job as an English teacher in a center for kids and teens through the company English First. After two gap years, she plans to attend medical school.
“I am following my interests and this incredible opportunity to study Russian language and live abroad,” Selland says.