U.S. Department of State Selects UC Student for Critical Language Scholarship

George Potter, a doctoral student and Fulbright Scholar in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, has been chosen for a prestigious scholarship to study Arabic in Amman, Jordan, during the summer of 2010.

The 2010 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program received nearly 5,300 applications. From those, the U.S. Department of State selected approximately 575 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to study Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Persian, Russian, Indic (Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu) and Turkic (Turkish and Azerbaijani) languages.

“I originally heard about the scholarship quite some time ago when I was looking up different funding opportunities for research and Arabic study, and I also have an American friend from Egypt who did the program last summer in Amman,” Potter says. “I knew that I wanted to do more study, and the intensive format is really useful because it allows for complete focus, apart from teaching and dissertation work, so I thought I would apply for it.”

Potter had studied Arabic for two years before his first trip to Egypt as part of his doctoral dissertation research.

Potter had studied Arabic for two years before his first trip to Egypt as part of his doctoral dissertation research.

Potter says that the application process was pretty standard: “transcripts, letters, prior study information and a few short essays.” He continues, “It was actually pretty comical, because it was clearly written with the average undergrad who hadn't been to the region before in mind, so a lot of the questions were about your ability to adapt, to focus on intensive studies, or to have leadership skills. So I was kind of like, um, I've done intensive study, lived in Egypt, am writing a dissertation and I teach.”

You might say that George Potter is not the average English student, period. In fact, he already knew Arabic, having studied it for two years before travelling to Egypt to conduct research for his dissertation,

“Global Politics and (Trans)National Arts: Staging the ‘War on Terror’ in New York, London and Cairo.”

The CLS Program selected the students for scholarships in 2010 from a range of academic disciplines and U.S. colleges and universities from all 50 states through a merit-based selection process.

Potter visited the pyramids while in Egypt.

Potter visited the pyramids while in Egypt.

“The assessments were language placement exams. One was written, basically following the arc of the most commonly used series of Arabic textbooks,” explains Potter. “The second was a 20-minute phone conversation in Arabic, will be repeated afterward, both to place us at the start and give a placement score at the end.”

The CLS Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers. The students will spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes in 15 countries where these languages are spoken. Recipients will also support their language acquisition through cultural immersion activities.

This will also not be Potter’s first trip to Jordan.

The goals of the CLS Program include improving understanding and respect between countries and improving Americans' critical-language skills.

The goals of the CLS Program include improving understanding and respect between countries and improving Americans' critical-language skills.

“I spent a couple of weeks in Amman, traveling around Jordan for a theater festival while I was in Egypt,” he says. “I had a friend do the same program there, and have another friend living there, so I know about what to expect.”

The Department of State's Critical Language Scholarships for Intensive Summer Institutes was launched in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical-need languages overseas and is part of a wider U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages.

CLS Program participants are among the more than 40,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The CLS Program is administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers and the American Councils for International Education.

Potter is seen here on top of Bab Zuweila, one of the medieval gates of old Cairo.

Potter is seen here on top of Bab Zuweila, one of the medieval gates of old Cairo.

For further information about the CLS Program or the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, visit their Web sites at

www.clscholarship.org

and

http://exchanges.state.gov

.

Read More about George Potter:

Staging the War on Terror

English PhD student researches cross-cultural perspectives on terrorism through performing arts. Listen to the interview on WVXU (91.7 FM).

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