UOG’s first Critical Language Scholars gain appreciation of heritage and multicultural learning
Lourdes Mafnas and Monita Paul had the unique experience over the summer of being the first UOG students to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Program. Mafnas, a graduate environmental science student, and Paul, an undergraduate biology major, were chosen for the eight-week program from a pool of 4,600 national applicants.
While the program is typically held abroad, immersing students in the home countries of one of the program’s 15 target languages, the pandemic moved this year’s program to a virtual setting, complete with intensive lessons, a language partner, and cultural tours.
Paul chose to study the Bangla language through the American Institute of Indian Studies in Kolkata, India, because of her desire to learn more about her Bengali heritage.
"The program has brought me a deeper understanding of my Bengali heritage. Being able to read and understand some conversational Bangla has helped me improve my communication with my family members and become more aware of the cultural practices in my family as well,” Paul said.
Due to the time difference, Paul attended classes from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. from her home in Saipan, where she would participate in reading, writing, listening, and speaking lessons. She also met with a language partner twice per week for an hour.
Mafnas studied the Indonesian language through the Universitas Negri Malang in Malang, Indonesia, for two hours every day from Tuesday to Saturday. Mafnas and her four classmates dove straight into dialogue lessons within their first week, followed by cultural days every other Saturday.
Although there was a lot to learn from the program itself, the more valuable part for Mafnas was the interactions with her teachers and university students.
“That showed me how kind and welcoming Indonesian people are and reminded me of the excitement of meeting and learning from people from other countries,” Mafnas said.
Her program included a mix of language lessons and games and taught her about the different schools and businesses throughout the country. Her language partner also provided her with a tour of the university campus on her moped.
“It is definitely fast-paced, and depending on your language level, it will take a lot of your time and effort, but it's all worth it,” said Mafnas, who was working full-time while studying for an exam at the time of the program.
Despite the program being virtual, both Mafnas and Paul found the program to be an eye-opening and worthwhile experience with its one-on-one nature. Alumni of the CLS program are connected with additional opportunities after the program, such as accessibility to grants, scholarships, and potential jobs.
The initiative of the CLS program is to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. The program aims to prepare students for the 21st century’s globalized workforce and national competitiveness. The program is recommended for anyone interested in expanding their language skills and cultural knowledge.
Applications for the 2022 Critical Language Scholarship summer program are due by 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 17 ChST.
The program will be hosting an information session specifically for UOG students at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. Registration is required, and students may register here.
For more information, contact: