Critical Language Scholarship Program | Isabelle McRae
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Isabelle McRae

After grad­u­at­ing from high school in 2012, Isabelle McRae trav­eled to Turkey on a whim and was cap­ti­vat­ed by the cul­ture and lan­guage. She spent many months vol­un­teer­ing in vil­lages, hik­ing, and explor­ing. Because of her expe­ri­ences in the Cau­ca­sus, she knew she want­ed to study in a field that would sup­port her pas­sion for Tur­kic cul­tures and inter­na­tion­al rela­tions, and she enrolled at Port­land Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege, sup­port­ed by a Pell Grant. Her first-hand expe­ri­ence and unquench­able love for lan­guages moti­vat­ed her to apply for the 2016 CLS Pro­gram in Turkish.

Receiv­ing the Crit­i­cal Lan­guage Schol­ar­ship meant so much to me. It was the gate­way to a mul­ti­tude of schol­ar­ships and fel­low­ships which allowed me to thrive in high­er edu­ca­tion. It also gave me the foun­da­tion to pur­sue a high lev­el of lan­guage skill which I now use in research, pro­fes­sion­al­ly, and social­ly. As a result of study­ing Turk­ish in the midst of declin­ing rela­tions with the U.S., I also stud­ied and worked in Azer­bai­jan, which in my case led to many great rela­tion­ships and learn­ing anoth­er Tur­kic language.”

Liv­ing and work­ing in Turkey and Azer­bai­jan has made Isabelle a more flex­i­ble and relaxed person. 

Life can be a bit more chaot­ic com­pared to the Unit­ed States, and when time func­tions dif­fer­ent­ly, things don’t always go as planned. Peo­ple tend to take these set­backs less seri­ous­ly and take care of each oth­er a bit more. I think it’s an impor­tant aspect of oper­at­ing in a world that will always be sub­ject to change.”

In the sum­mer of 2019, Isabelle returned to the region with CLS Pro­gram, this time as a Res­i­dent Direc­tor for the Azer­bai­jani pro­gram. Res­i­dent Direc­tors are on-the-ground staff mem­bers who help sup­port and guide stu­dents through­out their inten­sive summers.

I got to take all my pas­sion and hard-earned insights about Azer­bai­jan and share them with stu­dents who gen­uine­ly cared about learn­ing. Because I had expe­ri­enced the Cau­ca­sus as a CLS schol­ar, I under­stood what stu­dents were going through and could help them strate­gize how to get sup­port, stay healthy, and inte­grate well, while also impart­ing some of my tranquility-in-the-face-of-the-unexpected.”

Now, Isabelle is study­ing Con­flict Stud­ies at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics and often has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak Turk­ish. She is tak­ing an advanced trans­la­tion course so she can con­tin­ue to improve her trans­lat­ing skills.

My abil­i­ty to do pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary research in the lan­guage real­ly sets me apart from oth­er stu­dents. While I’m uncer­tain what I will do after my degree, I expect that my path will con­tin­ue to bring me back to Turkey. I’m very inter­est­ed in migra­tion and dis­place­ment, and there is cer­tain­ly a lot of work to be done in that area.”


Alumni Profiles

Isabelle McRae
Isabelle McRae
Turkish 2016
Baku, Azerbaijan

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Posted Date

March 10, 2020