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Program Overview - What to Expect


CLS is first and foremost a rigorous academic program. You will have approximately twenty hours of language class per week, with two to three hours of homework each night.

Language Policy

The more often you speak a foreign language, the faster your language skills improve. For this reason, you will be required to sign the CLS Language Policy during your on-site orientation stating that you agree to use the target language at all times in certain settings. These locations may vary by site but will likely include:

  • In CLS classes
  • When speaking with local instructors, staff, and officials
  • On the grounds of the CLS institute, in all facilities (including classrooms, hallways, and all common areas)
  • On group excursions and trips
  • With your language partner and with your host family or roommate

While you are required to speak the target language only in these certain circumstances, you should make an effort to use the language at all times. As a recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship, you are expected to adhere to the spirit of the language policy, even when you are not at home, on campus, or involved in formal program activities. We understand that sometimes you may be frustrated and tired of speaking the target language. Occasionally, you might even feel that you are not improving. We urge you to be patient and keep trying. You will make progress if you constantly use the language. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the language policy, we encourage you to reach out to your Resident Director for advice and support.

Group-Based Program

As a CLS participant, you will be part of a group ranging from 5 to 30 students, depending on the language and location. Participants in your group will come from all regions of the United States and will have diverse backgrounds and identities. CLS is a good opportunity to expand your network of people across the United States who share an interest in your target language. It’s also a great way to learn about the diversity of the United States, as you get to know other Americans with perspectives and backgrounds very different from your own.

During the CLS program, all your classes and activities will be done in groups, and everyone will share the same general schedule. Everything on the program is designed for language-learning in a group setting. Please be aware that you may have less flexibility with your schedule than you are used to, and activities and topics may not always align directly with your field of study or your personal interests.

The CLS Program is a cooperative experience, and it is important that all cohort members support one another’s learning throughout the program. Positive and respectful group dynamics will help everyone in the cohort stay focused on language learning and make the most of their cultural immersion experience. Remember that you will likely cross paths with members of your cohort after the program in your personal, academic, or professional paths, and your CLS cohort can serve as a great network for your career.

Excursions and Activities

You will likely have one overnight excursion and several day trips or afternoon excursions in addition to weekly cultural activities. You will receive more information about excursions at your on-site orientation. Please remember that participation in all excursions and activities is mandatory. If you have special needs while travelling (such as medication that needs to be kept cold, or other special arrangements) please inform your Resident Director and institute staff well in advance of the excursion.

Language Partners

Language partners are local students or other community members who are carefully selected to work closely with CLS participants on a weekly basis to practice the target language in a less formal setting. Language partners support participants’ studies, enhance their conversational skills, and provide insights into the host city, its people, culture, and traditions. Language partners are required to speak with participants in the target language and will be prohibited from speaking in English per the language policy.

Housing and Meals

All CLS participants are required to live in program provided housing throughout the summer program. Depending on your site, you will live either with a host family or in an apartment or dorm with roommates from the CLS Program or host institute. Your meals during the program will also be provided by the CLS Program. Each site will be different, but you may eat meals with your host family or at your host institution, or you may receive money in your stipend to purchase meals or groceries.

Independent Travel

You may wish to travel independently during your free time. CLS participants are welcome to pursue independent travel that does not interfere with their full participation in the CLS Program or violate program policies. At least 48 hours before traveling outside the host city, participants are required to submit an independent travel form to the Resident Director. The independent travel form asks participants to indicate when and where they plan to travel, how they plan to get there, any additional contact information during the travel, and when they intend to return.

Travel to any area deemed unsafe or off-limits by the U.S. or host country government is not permitted. More information about this will be provided during pre-departure orientation and on-site orientation. If travel restrictions exist in your host country, they will be included in the Site-Specific Policies you will be asked to sign when you arrive. The American Embassy or Consulate may also provide information about areas where travel advisories have been issued. Please note that CLS, in consultation with the U.S. Department of State, may add or change travel restrictions at any time before or during the summer program.