Three Miami students named CLS scholarship recipients

a photo of three girls side by side

By Rachel Berry

Three Miami University students — junior international studies and French double major Sydney Chuen, sophomore international studies and comparative religion double major Inaara Ladha, and junior international studies and German double major Sophia Pauken — have been offered the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). This competitive scholarship fully funds a summer immersion program for languages not commonly taught in the United States.

The CLS is intended to increase the number of students who are mastering languages the government deems critical, said Karla Guinigundo, Director of Global Partnerships and CLS advisor at Miami. The program focuses on non-European languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Persian, Korean and Hindi.

Guinigundo said this is a “strong year,” with three Miami students chosen for the program.

“The critical language scholarship is well known nationally as the scholarship students who are serious about language acquisition pursue," Guinigundo said. “It’s always encouraging when we have students who are very seriously focused on some of the less commonly taught languages and really motivated to reach a higher fluency through intense programs such as CLS.”

The students will spend their summer at a state department language institute in the country they are assigned. Students apply for a certain language and denote their skill level, and then they are placed in one of the countries where a program in that language is offered.

While they are there, the students will be solely focused on learning the language.

Chuen will be studying Arabic at the Noor Majan Training Institute (NMTL) in Ibri, Oman.

“You’re literally just there to learn Arabic, which is kind of the reason that I wanted to do it anyways because you need complete immersion and you need complete focus to be able to do something like this,” Chuen said.

Chuen was studying abroad in Paris, France, when she received the email saying she had been accepted into the CLS program.

“I was so happy,” Chuen said. “I called everybody all right at once. It was such an exciting moment.”

Pauken will be studying Arabic in Tangier, Morocco. 

She completed a similar program, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, while she was in high school and spent eight months studying Hindi in India. When she came to Miami, she started studying Arabic instead and fell in love with the language.

"I wanted to apply for CLS because the only way to really master a critical language like Arabic is to be fully immersed and to have that intensive 8-hour-a-day studying," Pauken said. "I knew that even though it would be really difficult, I needed to put myself through something like that to truly master the language." 

Ladha was chosen for Hindi and will be staying in Jaipur, Rajasthan in India.

She is studying both Arabic and Hindi and chose to apply for the CLS Hindi program because Miami does not offer courses in the language. Ladha is interested in migration studies and hopes to use her language skills in a future career.

“When you learn a new language, in my opinion, I think you learn how and in what pathways people can think, just by the way they speak the way they can formulate their words and their idioms, and I think when you gain access to that, you can really connect with people more and produce more meaningful solutions to issues that affect many people,” Ladha said. 

Looking for opportunities similar to CLS? Learn more about scholarships abroad!