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Four Critical Language Scholarship recipients announced


Four Ohio University students—Max Annable, Nathen Drexler, Alexandra Koran, and Meriah Woolery—have been selected as recipients for the nationally competitive Critical Language Scholarship (CLS).

This summer, they will live and study abroad to enhance their language and intercultural communication skills. One student, Rebecca Wines, has been named an alternate to the program, itself an impressive achievement given that CLS is among the most prestigious language programs for U.S. students.

CLS fully funds and immerses students in the study of 15 languages considered to be critically tied to U.S. security and prosperity. Over the course of the 8-10-week program, which is equivalent to one full year of academic study, Ohio University’s 2019 CLS recipients will receive intensive language instruction and engage with host communities through a series of cultural enrichment activities.

Max Annable

Max Annable, a senior majoring in Spanish, political science, and Latin American studies, will study Portuguese in Florianópolis, Brazil, after his graduation.

“I am excited to return to Florianópolis, Brazil, where I studied abroad two years ago, in order to continue my studies of Portuguese, this time with the CLS program,” Annable said. “I hope to make use of the Portuguese language in a career possibly with the U.S. Foreign Service, in international relations, or in Brazil.”

Annable adds that his love of the Portuguese language stems not only from his previous experiences in Brazil, but also from his experiences with Ohio University’s welcoming Brazilian community. He encourages fellow students to consider enrolling in Portuguese classes, given the pathways these classes can open.

Nathan Drexler

Nathen Drexler, a senior majoring in German and linguistics, will travel to Lucknow, India to study Urdu.

“After previously working as a Russian and Ukrainian language analyst in the U.S. Navy, I have developed a great interest in less commonly taught languages which are considered to be vital for U.S. national security,” said Drexler. “Through my studies of linguistics at Ohio University, I developed an even greater understanding of how languages function and how they are learned.”

Drexler added that his interest in Urdu is tied to his interests in the histories of India and Pakistan.

“Having a shared understanding with speakers of Hindi, along with the addition of countless loanwords from Persian and Arabic, Urdu is a language capable of representing the elaborate history and culture of India and Pakistan, a region of the world that I have always been very interested in,” he said.

Drexler said that he imagines learning and engaging with the Urdu language will be a lifelong experience for him, and he ultimately envisions working as a language analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Alexandra Koran

Alexandra Koran, a senior majoring in globalization and development geography and African studies, will study Swahili in Arusha, Tanzania.

Two years ago, I visited Tanzania, East Africa,” Koran said. “Initially, I thought I was traveling there to learn about water development, a strong passion of mine. But when I arrived I realized how little I actually understood about the area, including the language, Swahili. I saw how much Swahili influenced daily life, how it was not only a language but a culture, and how it shaped Tanzanian identity.”

Koran explained that, after returning from her first trip to Tanzania, she seized opportunities to study Swahili at Ohio University, including via the STARTALK Swahili program.

“Since then,” she said, “I have worked hard to utilize the resources offered domestically for language learning and I decided to apply for the advanced level of the CLS Swahili Program.”

Koran added that studying Swahili has greatly influenced her understanding of herself and her relationship to the world.

“It has connected me with amazing people, changed the way I think about and view the world around me, and has no doubt been my favorite experience of my college career,” she said. “Now I am excited to return to the country where my language journey first started and continue my learning.”

Once Koran returns from the CLS Program in August, she will depart for Rwanda in September 2019, where she will live and work as a secondary education English teacher for 27 months through the Peace Corps.

Meriah Woolery

Meriah Woolery, a junior majoring in theater, minoring in marketing, and pursuing certificates in social media, East Asian studies, and Chinese, will travel to Suzhou, China to study the Chinese language.

Woolery learned about the CLS Program last Fall, when she traveled to Washington, D.C. with the OHIO Fellows.

“We got to speak with the State Department of Education who oversees this trip and they really sold me on it. I'm finished with my Chinese courses at OU and since I am currently independently studying, I know I need more instruction,” she said.

During a previous study abroad trip to Beijing, Woolery created a YouTube series under the title “meriah does life” to discuss her experiences as a black person in China. She didn’t see many people who looked like her making videos about traveling or studying Chinese, she said, and she hopes to inspire other African Americans to study the languages they want and to travel the world.

“I am so happy to be going this summer to study abroad in China,” Woolery said. “I'm looking forward to being in Southern China cause it's close to Shanghai.”

Woolery added that she imagines studying the Chinese language will be an ongoing experience throughout her life.

“I know for certain no matter what I do I will be using Chinese with it,” she said.

Woolery envisions a career in entertainment and media because, she said, “it’s the best medium for cultural appreciation.”

Rebecca Wines

Rebecca Wines, a senior psychology major, was selected as an alternate to CLS’s Japanese program in Okayama, Japan.

After taking several Japanese courses during her time at Ohio University, Wines looked into ways she could learn Japanese abroad in an immersive environment, but also had her doubts about her competitiveness for CLS. “When I heard about the CLS program, I thought, ‘Maybe I can wing it. I doubt I’ll win anyway,’” she said. “But every step of the way I had a friend willing to support my dream of going to Japan.”

Inspired by the support of friends and mentors, Wines dedicated more and more time to the writing and revision required for the application. “The thing holding me back [at first] was my lackluster attitude, but receiving emails saying ‘Congratulations!’ and ‘We’re pleased to inform you…’ gave me confidence to overcome the limitations I had put on myself.”

Ohio University undergraduate and graduate students interested in learning more about the CLS Program are encouraged to contact Dr. Chris Lewis at christopherlewis@ohio.edu), who directs the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards and supports students individually as they compose their applications.