Student Receives Critical Language Scholarship To Study Arabic Abroad
March 07, 2011
Elyse Whitehead '11 was recently awarded a Critical Language Scholarship by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. She will travel to Muscat, Oman to study Arabic as part of the program's Intensive Summer Institute in May.
Whitehead was chosen from a pool of more than 5,000 students from across the country. The program covers "approximately one year's worth of language study" in an eight-week span with students participating in group-based language instruction five days a week in addition to cultural enrichment experiences.
Launched in 2006, the Critical Language Scholarship Program offers intensive overseas study in the critical-need foreign languages of Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russia, Turkish and Urbu.
Whitehead has studied Arabic since her sophomore year, having completed all course work available through Emmanuel and the Colleges of the Fenway. An individualized major in global health with a specific interest in issues of women's health in the Middle East, she has studied in Morocco and interned in India, where she performed field research on the "accessibility of health care and stigma of disease among rural village women." The daughter of a surgeon, she hopes to follow in her father's footsteps and is looking toward a future in the health and medical fields.
"You need language to be able to build a patient-doctor bond; you lose so much in terms of trust and confidentiality with the use of a translator," she said. "Especially in the political climate of the world right now it is important for Americans to understand the Arabic language."
Whitehead credits Assistant Professor of History Caroline Reeves and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Laurie Johnston for playing key roles in making this opportunity possible.
"Emmanuel professors are wonderful," she said. "I did not have Professor Reeves for class, but when I started developing my major I reached out to her and she took me under her wing. She encouraged me to apply for this scholarship and was an amazing facilitator. I also studied Islam with Professor Johnston (Whitehead is also a religious studies minor) and she wrote me a recommendation for the scholarship."
Whitehead says she is already getting excited for the opportunity. She will depart soon after graduation.
"I am looking forward to immersing myself in an Arabic-speaking culture and having the ability to study the language for an extended period of time," she said.