Images courtesy of Julia Graham and Jordan Westlake.
As the semester draws to a close, the senior class begins to spread its wings. As they apply for jobs, decide on master’s programs and determine next steps, two Conn seniors will travel overseas for the summer for intensive language study. Both Julia Graham and Jordan Westlake received a Critical Language Fellowship from the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for ten weeks of study. Graham is an Ann Arbor Michigan senior studying psychology, Slavic studies, and environmental studies. She was also recently announced as a Winthrop Scholar, being in the top 3% of the Class of 2022 academically. Westlake, a native of Somerville, Massachusetts, holds a double major in history and global Islamic studies with a minor in Arabic studies. Westlake is also a fellow of CISLA, the Center for International Studies and Liberal Arts. She has previously received the College’s Robert E. Proctor Scholarship for Summer Language Study, awarded in support of additional Arabic language learning.
Both programs start in June. Graham will study Russian in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. While it had been advertised as a virtual program, it has been moved to be in person, an exciting opportunity for the Russian language specialist. Westlake will be in Tangier, Morocco to study at the Arab American Language Institute.
The application process began in September. Students were notified if they were semi-finalists on January 20, and they were officially accepted in early March. “It was amazing, I think I cried tears of joy,” Graham laughed. This isn’t the first time Graham has applied. “I actually applied in my freshman year for summer 2019 and was rejected, which was fine. I went to Ukraine independently and found a family in welcome on my own and had a great experience I hadn’t walked in so it hit me but when I applied to Fulbright Melissa Ryan and [my academic advisor] Laura Little suggested I reapply as an option. This is Westlake’s first time applying for the language scholarship. “I learned this in freshman year, and I’ve had it on my radar ever since. I was thinking about scholarships all through college. I really wanted to do a scholarship abroad for Arabic in part to make up for the missed experience abroad that I didn’t have through CISLA because of the pandemic. I really made it my mission,” she shared.
Both students received assistance from Connecticut College Walter Commons, which reviewed their applications. Westlake is very grateful for the help of CISLA, which paid for her private lessons to compensate for the small size of the Arabic department. “Sometimes studying Arabic has been frustrating due to the lack of courses offered,” she admits. “I don’t think I would have chosen Arabic if I had known how complicated it would be and how difficult it would be to get into class.” She is also grateful for the support offered by Walter Commons and the Fellowship System.
Graham credits the Department of Slavic Studies and Little for his success. “Conn has a very good department of Slavic studies, it’s small but the teachers are super dedicated which is amazing. I received a lot of individual support. The Department of Slavic Studies provided Graham with numerous independent study opportunities culminating in a senior integration project around the Russian language. She is also grateful for the help of the department’s Fulbright Assistant who offers students the opportunity to advance their Russian through one-on-one conversations.
“It seems like such a cool program because I love the language. Obviously I’m a bit nervous about going to a country I haven’t been to for two months. Even though I have a cohort, it sounds a bit scary but also exciting,” Graham said. She looks forward to the full immersion she is promised. The program pairs students with a language partner their age and from the country where they will be studying. So students usually stay with host families, this has been discontinued due to Covid-19. Graham will be staying in a dormitory type house with other students. “I’m just thrilled with the experience and finding out a new country,” Graham said, his enthusiasm palpable.
Westlake is very excited to improve her Arabic, a skill she hasn’t had a chance to use outside of the classroom. She hasn’t been able to take formal Arabic classes since her second year. “I look forward to perfecting my language and immersing myself in the culture. I’ve never had this opportunity before and always wanted to do full language immersion. Now that I finally understand this, it will make the biggest difference,” Westlake said. of life,” she concluded.
Once their programs are finished, the two students look to the future. Westlake hopes to eventually go to graduate school for history or education. She is currently applying for jobs in education. Graham will travel to Kazakhstan in the fall as a Fulbright scholar, where she will teach English. Then she has a job in Wisconsin at Epic Systems, a health technology company, best known for MyChart. Eventually, she plans to pursue a degree in psychology in some form that involves graduate school.
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