Critical Language Scholarship Program | Lon Gibson
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Lon Gibson

Lon Gib­son is an alum­nus of the 2016 CLS Azer­bai­jani pro­gram in Baku, Azer­bai­jan. He is cur­rent­ly a Ph.D. stu­dent in inter­na­tion­al con­flict man­age­ment at Ken­ne­saw State Uni­ver­si­ty. Lon was born and raised in Macon, Geor­gia with four broth­ers and two sis­ters; he is an uncle to 10 nieces and nephews. After he com­plet­ed his Mas­ter of Pub­lic Admin­is­tra­tion, Lon taught Eng­lish in Saatli, Azer­bai­jan with the Unit­ed States Peace Corps. His favorite things to do when not trav­el­ling or study­ing are read­ing, paint­ing, and running. 

Why Azer­bai­jani?

I chose to study Azer­bai­jani as my CLS tar­get lan­guage because I want­ed to con­tin­ue devel­op­ing the skills I acquired dur­ing my ser­vice in the Peace Corps. Addi­tion­al­ly, since I am cur­rent­ly work­ing on my PhD and my area of study is focused in the South Cau­ca­sus (in par­tic­u­lar, Azer­bai­jan), con­tin­u­ing to devel­op my Azer­bai­jani skills was nec­es­sary for my forth­com­ing dissertation. 

Dis­cov­er­ing Lin­guis­tic Diversity

My fond­est mem­o­ry from the CLS Azer­bai­jani pro­gram is vis­it­ing the seclud­ed vil­lage of Xinaliq (Khi­nalug). This vil­lage is an ancient set­tle­ment that dates back to the Cau­casian Alban­ian peri­od. Xinaliq is also the high­est and most remote vil­lage in Azer­bai­jan. Upon arrival, I attempt­ed to speak with sev­er­al locals in Azer­bai­jani only to real­ize that this vil­lage had its own unique lan­guage. What I learned most from this expe­ri­ence was that Azer­bai­jan is much more than the bright lights of Baku. It is a coun­try unit­ed under the civic iden­ti­ty of Azer­bai­jani but also still retains eth­nic iden­ti­ties, some of which that date back as far as Noah. 

On Man­ag­ing Difference

Being an African Amer­i­can male, liv­ing in a post-Sovi­et soci­ety, to say the least shaped my expe­ri­ence in Azer­bai­jan. Most Azer­bai­ja­nis have nev­er inter­act­ed with black peo­ple and it was not uncom­mon to receive stares of curios­i­ty. This entails its own spe­cif­ic chal­lenges. It pro­vid­ed me, how­ev­er, with mul­ti­ple oppor­tu­ni­ties to shed light on a cul­ture that is often only viewed through a tele­vi­sion screen. 

Words of Wisdom

I would def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend study­ing Azer­bai­jani to those con­sid­er­ing the CLS pro­gram because this lan­guage is unique and will give you a deep­er under­stand­ing of the South Cau­ca­sus. Azer­bai­jan sits at the cross­roads between East and West and this is exem­pli­fied through its lan­guage. Though it is Tur­kic in ori­gin, Azer­bai­jani is heav­i­ly influ­enced by Russ­ian and Ara­bic. This mix­ture of lan­guages pro­vides you with a cul­tur­al insight into how (and why) Azerbaijan’s iden­ti­ty has been con­struct­ed in the man­ner in which it is today. 

Alumni Profiles

Lon Gibson
Lon Gibson
Azerbaijani 2016
Baku, Azerbaijan

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Posted Date

March 28, 2017