Critical Language Scholarship Program | Chelsea McGill
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Chelsea McGill

When Chelsea McGill went to Bangladesh on the CLS Pro­gram in 2011, it was her first time out­side of the Unit­ed States. After eight weeks nav­i­gat­ing a com­plete­ly new envi­ron­ment, cul­ture and lan­guage, she knew that it wouldn’t be the last.

Look­ing back, my deci­sion to apply for Bangla has real­ly changed my entire life.”

Chelsea returned the fol­low­ing sum­mer on CLS and then chose to study Bangla at the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Indi­an Stud­ies for anoth­er eight months in Kolkata, India. She then start­ed a master’s pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go where she spe­cial­ized in South Asian Stud­ies. Chelsea’s the­sis made use of her study abroad expe­ri­ences and the lan­guage skills she devel­oped on the CLS Pro­gram, focus­ing on how indige­nous groups in Bangladesh use spe­cif­ic ter­mi­nol­o­gy and phras­ing to advo­cate for human rights.

Now Chelsea lives with her hus­band in North Kolkata, a work­ing class part of the city where Bangla is wide­ly spo­ken — although Eng­lish is com­mon in Kolkata, she often finds her­self immersed in the language.

Chelsea interviewing a community member (Photo: Jayantika Bajpai)

In 2017 Chelsea and her hus­band found­ed Her­itage Walk Cal­cut­ta, an orga­ni­za­tion that does exten­sive research on the his­to­ry of Kolkata and edu­cates the pub­lic through walk­ing tours. The orga­ni­za­tion works with young schol­ars to per­form the research, lead walks, and receive train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. The walks are gen­er­al­ly con­duct­ed in Eng­lish, but the research is often in Bangla. 

My advice for prospec­tive appli­cants is to speak to some­one who has exper­tise in the lan­guage you are inter­est­ed in apply­ing for. My advi­sor was an expert in the Indi­an sub­con­ti­nent, and was able to guide me through the appli­ca­tion process. I couldn’t have done it with­out him.”


Alumni Profiles

Chelsea McGill
Chelsea McGill
Bangla 2011
Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Posted Date

November 06, 2019