Happy International Education Week! International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange around the world. Our team at the CLS Program at American Councils has the joy of seeing up close the impact of international education on the lives of our students. We see it transform self-confidence, expand world-views, inspire innovation, foster connection, and create more open-minded and empathetic individuals. Hearing the stories of how CLS continues to shape the lives of our alumni, even a decade after the program, never ceases to amaze us and inspire the work we do.
In recognition of IEW 2022, and, in celebration of the close of our 2023 CLS application, we wanted to share a few favorite snapshots from our alumni on what the CLS Program has meant to them.
Here's what they had to say:
Benjamin Parker (Chinese 2012), Architect
“I would not have found my dream job had I not studied Chinese. I would not have met my wife. I would not have experienced the beauty of Chinese poetry. I would not look in the mirror and see such unfamiliar things. Because of CLS, I later went back to study architecture in China. My first time with CLS in Beijing was a total shock. Culture shock, yes, but also urban shock. Beijing is a gigantic, complicated city. I had only lived in Texas, which has cities, but on a completely different scale. I was captivated by the historical architecture of China, and garden design. My professional interests, both designing and teaching is around how can you bring elements from China's historical architecture into contemporary relevance. Just like acupuncture is this old thing that was very useful to me as a contemporary, 21st century person, there are aspects of Chinese architecture that we might think of as old and outdated, but that's simply because they haven't been utilized yet. And they could be extremely valuable for modern people, not only in China, but around the world.”
Chisom Obasih (Japanese 2017), Psycholinguistic Researcher
“If it weren't for studying Japanese, I would not be in the field of psycholinguistics. I feel like I am truly in the field I was always meant to be in. CLS fast-tracked my language learning and helped me develop confidence in my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The next spring, I ran out of Japanese classes to take towards my major, so I was able to do an independent study. It was though through my independent study that I discovered my interest in studying pitch accent which became the focus of my senior thesis and the work I now do.”
Eve Rinauro (Persian 2018), Grants Officer for International Federation of Human Rights Defenders
“CLS brought me back to what was important, why I was learning the language in the first place, which was to connect with people. I came out of those eight weeks with so many new friendships and a full heart. It was a really healing time for me. I now work as the Grants Officer at the International Federation for Human Rights. I manage emergency and protection grants for human rights defenders that are at risk of persecution in Afghanistan, people like my friend. And in my current job, I use my Persian more and more every day.”
Charles McKinney (Arabic 2022), TESOL Instructor
“I'm very grateful to have had this opportunity. I was an alternate finalist at first and I wasn't sure I’d make it. I'm glad that I did. I was also entering this experience as a non-traditional student. My CLS experience makes me think of one of my favorite quotes, 'it's never too late to be what you might have been.' I plan to continue making the most of it. I would love to work with Arabic speaking refugees at some point and eventually teach Arabic as a foreign language.”
Victor Yau (Korean 2015), Department of State Foreign Service Officer
"CLS was the first time I went outside of North America. I got to travel to East Asia, learn a language and build community with students not only from across the U.S., but around the world. It was the happiest ten weeks of my life up to that point. I realized that I wanted to travel the world and learn languages for the long-term, but didn’t know how. After returning from CLS, I attended a career session with the University of Houston’s Diplomat in Residence, John Roberts. He told me about his Foreign Service career, how he got paid to learn languages and travel abroad, and his thrilling experiences representing the U.S. worldwide. Listening to everything he said, I got chills in my chest. I thought this is what I want, this is what’s next for me."
Samuel Hotop (Russian 2009), Information Security Engineer
“In addition to creating opportunities to make close Russian friends, to work and study in Russia, and to absorb many aspects of Russian culture, learning Russian has prepared me to study computer languages and to learn to program, which has become an essential part of my career. When programming computers, we encounter many of the same topics we do when studying the linguistic nature of a human language i.e., syntax, semantics, etc. While they are of course different in application, the study of Russian prepared me well to deal with the demanding and detailed analysis required in computer programming.”
Calling all CLS alumni—join the IEW celebration and share with us how the CLS Program has continued to impact your life and career. Share a photo from your time abroad and your reflections on Instagram and use #CLSAlumni and #IEW2022!