Joanna Richards, ’18, has been selected for the Critical Language Scholarship, the most competitive scholarship for study abroad in the country. She will spend the summer in South Korea, studying the country’s language and culture.
The Pembroke resident is the first Bridgewater student to ever earn this scholarship, which is presented by the American Councils for International Education. The program is part of an effort by the federal government to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. CLS scholars gain critical language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.
“I am extremely passionate about the Korean language and culture and am really excited to have gotten this opportunity,” Joanna said.
She sees the scholarship as an important stepping stone to her desired career path.
“In the future, I would like to conduct ethnographic research in South Korea,” she said. “This would involve conducting interviews with locals and involvement in communities. In order to conduct effective research, it is important for me to be able to speak Korean for many reasons. I want to be able to openly speak and interview people without a translator so that I can make personal connections within the communities I will be working with.”
A senior at BSU studying cultural anthropology with minors in Asian studies and music, Joanna has previously participated in study tours to South Korea and China, and spent the spring 2017 semester at South Korea’s Kyungpook National University. BSU's Study Abroad Office was instrumental in arranging these tours, as well as assisting Joanna with the application for the scholarship.
The scholarship will allow her to spend this summer at South Korea’s Pusan National University in Busan. During that time, she will be in class 20 hours each week with about three hours of homework each day. In addition to classes, students in the program go on culture trips on the weekends and also spend time living with local host families.
Joanna is one of approximately 550 competitively selected American students at U.S. colleges and universities who received a CLS award in 2018.
CLS scholars are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future careers.
“Critical” languages are those that are less commonly taught in U.S. schools, but are essential for America’s engagement with the world. CLS plays an important role in preparing U.S. students for the 21st century’s globalized workforce, increasing American competitiveness, and contributing to national security. CLS scholars serve as citizen ambassadors, representing the diversity of the United States abroad and building lasting relationships with people in their host countries.