St. Olaf College | News

Three Oles earn scholarship to study critical languages abroad

Ross Nevin ’17 points out the location of Tajikistan, where he will spend the summer learning Persian Farsi with the support of a Critical Language Scholarship.

St. Olaf College students Ross Nevin ’17, Anna Kruskop ’18, and Julianne Stewart ’20 will spend the summer in an intense learning environment abroad after receiving a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS).

The CLS Program, among the most competitive scholarship competitions in the country, is a fully funded summer overseas language and cultural immersion program for post-secondary students from the United States. The goal of this program is to broaden the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries.

Nevin will travel to Tajikistan, Kruskop to Russia, and Stewart to China.

Ross Nevin ’17
Though Nevin’s father was born in Iran, when his family moved to the United States they emphasized assimilation and did not teach their children Persian.

Now, a generation later, Nevin hopes to reconnect with his culture by learning the language and traveling to Tajikistan. This past summer, Nevin began studying his heritage language at the University of Wisconsin-Madison through the Arabic Persian Turkish Language Immersion Institute.

“St. Olaf most influenced me to do this program through its community, the study abroad opportunities, and my friendships with international students,” Nevin says. “Having friends from all over the world who came to another country and culture to learn inspires me to do the same.”

Students will spend at least 20 hours a week learning Persian Farsi in a formal education setting. Farsi, the Iranian dialect of Persian, will be emphasized while students also study the local Tajik dialect. Students will also engage with local culture and language through cultural excursions, lectures, and a home stay.

Nevin looks forward to bringing back stories and experiences from his time in Tajikistan, a country in Central Asia that many couldn’t point out on a map.

After returning from Tajikistan, Nevin will explore careers in diplomacy, possibly with the U.S. State Department or international business. He sees the value of Persian both in connection with his family and in his professional goals.

Anna Kruskop ’18 will spend the summer learning Russian.

Anna Kruskop ’18
Kruskop studied French for about 10 years before coming to St. Olaf, but on the Hill she decided to make a switch. “I was drawn to Russian originally because of its alphabet and my general interest in languages,” Kruskop says.

This general interest in languages is what lead Kruskop to be a double major in both Russian and French. She notes that there is a stark difference between the two languages and cites that as a reason she finds them interesting to learn.

CLS covers the equivalent of one academic year of university-level Russian study during an eight-week period. In addition to classes, students participate in an active cultural program that includes excursions, lectures, and hands-on activities interacting with the culture. Kruskop will also be exposed to the culture through living with a host family, meeting with a language partner, and everyday exposure.

After a summer of intense language immersion, Kruskop will return to Russia in the fall for a semester-long study abroad program in Veliky Novgorod, Russia.

Though Kruskop does not have a concrete professional plan post-graduation, she has considered working for the U.S. State Department in some capacity or perhaps working with Russian immigrants.

Julianne Stewart ’20 will travel to Xi’an, China, where she hopes to further develop her ability to speak Chinese.

Julianne Stewart ’20
After studying Spanish and French in high school, Stewart traveled abroad to Thailand to learn Thai and took a gap year before college to live in Beijing.

Now Stewart is continuing her passion for learning languages in Xi’an, another city in China, where she hopes to further develop her ability to speak Chinese.

“Learning a foreign language in an immersive environment is so different from a classroom because the language is transformed from an abstract concept into a tool for daily life,” Stewart says.

Formal language instruction in the classroom will be supplemented by opportunities for conversation and exploration of culture.

Outside of class, students will learn Taichi and calligraphy, among other cultural activities and classes. On weekends, students will engage in cultural excursions throughout the city to deepen their understanding of the culture and language through interaction with locals. Stewart, with other CLS students, will live on campus with a Chinese roommate. These opportunities will allow for natural language acquisition through interactions.

While Stewart is not fully decided on what career to pursue, she is contemplating working as a foreign service officer. She is interested in American cross-cultural communication, and the idea of being able to live abroad in different countries appeals to her.

“I think it’s easier to work on reading and writing in a foreign language in the U.S., but to improve your speaking ability there’s nothing comparable to immersion,” Stewart says.