Jasmine Le

Jasmine Le, recipient of Critical Language Scholarship, will study abroad in Jordan this summer.

Courtesy Jasmine Le

Jasmine Le, a computer science graduate this spring at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has been named a recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Arabic in an intensive language setting this summer. Le will be placed at a university in Jordan to experience a year's worth of immersive language instruction over three months.

CLS logo

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the CLS program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. CLS scholars gain language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. CLS provides academic instruction in 15 languages vital to U.S. national security and economic prosperity.

“After the initial shock, I was ecstatic since the Critical Language Scholarship is a very competitive scholarship and one of the most prestigious language programs in the U.S.!” Le says. “The application process is intense, and UAH has only had four finalists in the past, with the most recent back in 2016. I was very surprised that I was awarded the scholarship, and it still does not feel real.”

The acceptance rate for the CLS is under 10%. The program is a summer study abroad opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world.

“I remember looking through the scholarship application in the past, but I finally gained the confidence to apply this year,” Le notes. “I had always wanted to study abroad in college, but the pandemic put those plans on the backburner. The scholarship was perfect since it allows me to continue improving my Arabic skills abroad. The application process for Arabic requires the completion of at least one year of the language, answering four essay questions and making a personal statement. Award recipients are selected on the basis of merit with consideration for commitment to language learning, connection between language and goals, preparation for the CLS program, adaptability, sensitivity and resilience, and contribution to the CLS program and program goals.”

CLS participants are considered to be “citizen ambassadors, sharing American values and promoting American influence abroad.” The choice of Arabic for her course of study proved to be an easy decision for the computer science graduate.

“I decided to study Arabic because it is a language critical to national security, and the fifth most spoken language in the world,” Le explains. “Arabic was an obvious choice for this scholarship since I had recently completed all of the Arabic classes UAH offers (101, 102, 201 and 202). Additionally, I want to continue improving my language skills, and studying in Jordan will provide me with multiple chances to use the language, learn the dialect and learn more about the culture.”

Le credits a number of UAH faculty members for helping her on her road to Jordan.

“Some mentors I would love to recognize that have helped me on my academic journey include Dr. David Johnson, Kawthar Slaitane-Pottenger and Jennifer Staton. Ms. Staton was immensely helpful during the scholarship application process and provided great insights on the scholarship. Dr. Johnson inspired me to pursue studying abroad with all of his stories of studying abroad in Germany. Ms. Slaitane-Pottenger has been an amazing teacher these past two years and prepared me very well for the program. She made learning Arabic easy, fun, and is one of the best professors I have had the opportunity to interact with at UAH.”

Students of diverse disciplines and majors are encouraged to apply for the CLS. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, with the goal to later apply their skills in their future professional careers. As to her future plans beyond her summer abroad, Le has her goals already mapped out.

“I will be attending graduate school at UAH in the fall for a masters in cybersecurity,” she says. “UAH has been amazing in expanding my horizons and allowing me to pursue other interests. My career goals are tailored to working as a cybersecurity intelligence analyst, and increasing my language and cultural knowledge in Arabic will help towards promoting national security. I believe this CLS opportunity will play a huge role in my future plans.”

CLS alumni typically go on to apply their language skills in a variety of professional fields in public and private sectors as well as government roles, helping to support America’s competitiveness around the globe. In the meantime, the graduate is ready for the trip of a lifetime to unfold.

“I am grateful that I have been awarded the opportunity to both study abroad and continue advancing my Arabic skills,” Le says. “I think being able to learn in Jordan will do wonders in improving my Arabic. I look forward to speaking with the locals, learning more about their culture and exploring the country. It will be my first time out of the country, so I still feel a bit of hesitancy, but I am eagerly awaiting the start date.”