Bruce Rash and Sandra Adams both studied abroad this summer through the CLS. Rash stayed in Japan, and Adams stayed in South Korea.
Bruce Rash, senior international relations major, and Sandra Adams, sophomore international relations major, spent their summers overseas part of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program. It is fully funded with a “goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries,” and it focuses on languages that are not widely taught. Because of this, those who receive the scholarship are expected to “continue their language study beyond the scholarship period.”
The languages offered are Azerbaijani, Bangla, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian.
Adams and Rash discovered the scholarship through different channels. Adams discovered CSL through a diplomat from the Department of Education in the summer of 2014. Rash discovered the program through the political science department at William Jewell College.
“I am very lucky and very proud to be a part of the political science department, which has an incredibly well-informed and supportive group of faculty with a great amount of experience with these types of programs and grants,” Rash said.
While participating in the program, Adams spent eight weeks in Gwangju, South Korea studying Korean at Chonnam National University. Adams also took a cultural class while there.
“I chose to take Taekwondo. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much. I went to class two days a week for about eight hours a week. After the first month, I received my yellow belt,” she said.
There were also cultural excursions during the weekends. Visiting a bamboo forest, a Confucian school and historical museums and in a temple stay with monks were a few of the things she did.
“When I was not in class or studying, I would hang out with my friends, roommate, or language partner. We would go out into the city, go eating, do karaoke [noraebang], shopping, go to bath houses, among other things,” Adams said.
While there, Adams learned more about Korean culture, history and people, as well as herself.
“I also learned more about myself since this is the fourth country I have lived in and had to custom myself to its way of life,” she said
Adams faced the challenge of saying good-bye to those she had met while in South Korea.
“No matter how much sadness or hurt I get from leaving people behind, I would do it all over again,” Adams said.
For two months, Rash studied Japanese at the University of Shiga Prefecture in Hikone, Japan and traveled across the main island of Japan for the remaining two weeks.
“I fell in love with Japan, all of Japan, almost instantly. I have a lot of favorite experiences, from meditating in an ancient Zen Buddhist temple with Buddhist monks to experiencing nomihoudai, an all-you-can-drink-bar, with almost everyone in the program and our new Japanese friends,” he said.
Throughout the experience, Rash learned about intercultural communication and boundaries. Adapting culturally was one challenge he faced.
“I think I really, permanently offended my host family beyond reconciliation. I feel terrible about it, but I just was not quite prepared for the expectations they would have of me; I was the first American they had really spent time with,” Rash said.
Adams and Rash both reflected on their experience abroad and their future.
“So far I have been wanting to become a Department of State foreign service officer and later an ambassador. Studying in Korea again has helped me make sure of what I want to do in the future. It has strengthened my dream of living in Korea. I know I want to do something with languages and helping people while traveling abroad, and I think studying abroad now and experiencing all of this is a great step towards that goal,” Adams said.
Rash responded similarly.
“I have always had an interest in Japan, and an interest in going international with my career, but those two months really solidified it. I would love to go to graduate school or to work in Japan following graduation, but it’s very competitive and expensive, so I’m still trying to sort out my resume and my options. Jewell has given me a lot of great things, but I think I can honestly say that the best thing it’s ever given me is the motivation to leave—and a destination to go to,” Rash said.
For more information on the Critical Language Scholarship program, visit their site at www.clscholarship.org.