Critical Language Scholarship Program | Belle Cheves

Belle Cheves

Why did you want to study your CLS target language?
Being able to work with Persian texts fluently is integral to my research.

What are your educational and/or professional goals?
Following the completion of my Masters at NYU I would like to pursue a PhD in History. (Achieved! Belle is starting her PhD program at Harvard University in fall 2015.)

How do you plan to use your target language in the future?
Throughout my studies, and hopefully travels.

How did participation in the CLS Program affect your life?
CLS had an immense impact on my academic career, as it propelled my knowledge of Persian far further and faster than sitting in a classroom stateside would have. The immersive environment afforded by the program is incomparable. My first CLS to Dushanbe in 2012 was the first lengthy time abroad I had spent, which was also phenomenal.

What was your favorite part about being in your host country?
The people and the food! The people are incredibly helpful and hospitable, and the food is amazing.

What did you learn about your host country that you didn't know before?
Knowing a decent amount of the "official" history prior to departure, what I found most interesting to learn were peoples' interpretations of that history - particularly comparisons of the pre- and post-Soviet eras.

Please share a short story about your CLS Program experience.
One of my favorite things to do was sit with my host father in the family's courtyard, by the fountain, and recite poetry or listen to his stories of growing up in Dushanbe.

What is your favorite target language word or phrase, and what does it mean in English?
Tarbuz. It means watermelon in Tajiki - we said it frequently and with great fondness, as the tarbuz in Tajikistan are incredibly delicious, and everywhere.

What is a must see or must try in your host city or country?
Accept an invitation to a family's home to have osh, and get a watermelon from one of the bazaars, or a street seller, and eat it. All of it.

What advice would you give prospective applicants, participants on the program, and/or recent CLS alumni?
Spending two months anywhere with a new group of people can be daunting. And two months of intensely studying a language with which you may or may not be familiar, even more so. The CLS program is remarkable, however, in the way that it brings people together not only to learn the target language, but also to foster cultural understanding and friendship within the group and with people of the host country. Dive in to the program with a sense of curiosity and a willingness to try new things - new phrases, new words, new foods. And don't be afraid to ask questions. Everyone is there to help you learn - be it language or about how to get to that one statue you want to take a picture of.

Personal background
I grew up in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. After studying history at the University of Michigan, I moved to DC and did Mideast analysis for the in-house intelligence unit of a major international law firm. Now I live in New York and study at NYU. While my coursework focuses primarily on modern Iran, I am part of a group based out of Columbia that promotes studying Central Asia, OASIES. I adore Tajikistan and Central Asia, and cannot wait to return again. In the meantime, it's good to be back in Brooklyn with my three-legged cat.

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Belle Cheves
Belle Cheves

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Posted Date

March 23, 2015