Critical Language Scholarship Program | Announcing 2023 CLS Alumni…

Announcing 2023 CLS Alumni Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to the 2023 CLS Alumni Photo Contest finalists!

The CLS team was amazed by the thoughtful entries we received from 2023 alumni and want to thank all the alumni who submitted photos. This year's competition included five categories, highlighting impactful and memorable moments from the 2023 summer. Congratulations to this year’s five winners and five runner-ups.

Mutual Understanding

Winner—Genevieve Manise

Language: Turkish
Site: Ankara, Turkey 

"To celebrate the 4th of July, our cohort threw a party and invited our language partners to celebrate Independence Day together. Emma, Elizabeth, and I bought watermelons, a staple food of the 4th of July, and carried them from the grocery store to campus for the party."

Runner-up—Elissa Badique 

Language: Japanese 
Site: Okayama, Japan 

"This was taken with new friend, Tsukasa Fukuda, right before our second performance of bon odori. Through an initial introduction to local folk dance through a CLS excursion at Kyoyama Community Center, I attended festival dance rehearsals and made wonderful lifelong friends who gave me the incredible honor of including me in their traditional performance, dancing alongside them in full costume, as seen here. Tsukasas mother is a kimono master whom I met at these events. She had gifted me kimono items and dressed me in beautiful formal kimono for the CLS closing ceremony. I am still in contact with the community long after, including the festival organizer, Takeshi Ihira. This experience changed the trajectory of my PhD research on dance, and I am now writing these wonderful memories into my dissertation!"

Language Learning in Action 

Winner—Victoria Myers

Language: Turkish
Site: Ankara, Turkey

"While visiting Cappadocia for the weekend, my cohort friends and I got to learn more about how carpets are made in Turkish culture. I was surprised to hear the way carpets are knotted differently depending on the country/ region. We looked at the most detailed carpets I had ever seen- many appeared more like actual paintings! Many of them took several months, and even over a year in some cases, to complete. It was amazing to hear more of the history and process of it all, and to see a small demonstration of that process from a woman that worked at the shop we visited. To top it off, we were also served my favorite tea- elma çayı (apple tea)- as we sat in the showroom admiring all the beautiful art."

Runner-up—Roariker Swenson

Language: Russian
Site: Tbilisi, Georgia

"Seamus Helena and I decided to spend some of our free time going to a Russian speaking climbing gym where we learned the important vocabulary for safety on the wall in Russian! It was fun asking other to belay and cheering each-other on in Russian."

Language Partner, Roommate or Host Family Connection

Winner—Lucas Aurore 

Language: Chinese 
Site: Tainan, Taiwan

"This photo was taken on my first day living with my host family. They had just showed me how to go to our Host University on the bus and we were returning home with my two host brothers. We had instinctively started holding hands as we walked back home. My host mom quickly captured this tender moment without us knowing. This photo set the tone for my entire experience, forming a very close connection to my host family and keeping it throughout my 2 months on the program."

Runner-up—Julia Norman

Language: Urdu 
Site: Lucknow, India 

"Taken inside the Bara Imambara, this photo commemorates an unforgettable memory on a unbelievably hot afternoon. Our whole cohort, accompanied by our language partners, explored the secret maze inside Lucknow's famous historical landmark. With our local guides leading the way, we wandered through the various picture worthy spots, concluding on the rooftop for a spectacular view of the city!"

Overcoming Challenges and Accomplishments

Winner—Mikhail Studenkov

Language: Japanese
Site: Okayama, Japan

"I am a professional jazz pianist, and I worried that I would not have many opportunities to play my instrument (especially with other people) during my CLS studies. Imagine my delight when I discovered Live House Bird, a fantastic jazz club with frequent performances and jam sessions, right in the heart of Okayama! Over my many visits to Bird, I got to play with great musicians and get to know both them and the audience members. My experiences here were immensely valuable to me in my professional journey and taught me many things about the Japanese vision of jazz."

Runner-up—Arushi Kotru

Language: Hindi
Site: Jaipur, India

"Throughout the summer, Isa and I started a trend of taking a selfie outside the plane. We are pictured here landing after our last time all flying to the same destination- our Jaipur to Delhi flight. After our Delhi to Newark flight, we were all off to different cities in the US. Once we landed in Delhi and it came time to check in our bags for our flight, the airline attendant was unable to find my flight and another peers flight. Not knowing if we would be able to check into our flight, we communicated with the CLS team back in the US, the airline attendant, the airline itself, and the airline managers. After a few hours of conversation, the attendants found our ticket, we were able to check into the flight, and we headed through into security. This travel challenge occurred right at the end of our CLS experience and with the support of our peers, we were able to communicate with the airline staff and work together to resolve the issue."

Group Bonding Moment 
Winner—Jingyi Sze

Language: Korean
Site: Gwangju, South Korea

"During our first free travel weekend, many of my classmates and their language partners decided to go to Jeonju Hanok Village where we dressed up in hanbok and had fun roaming the traditional village. Though we were only there for a day, we created so many special memories and I remember smiling and laughing more than I ever had before. Whenever I think back on my CLS experience, this short trip is one of the first memories that pops up because it perfectly encapsulates my time in South Korea: pushing myself to use my Korean language skills outside of the classroom, developing a greater understanding of and having firsthand experiences with the culture, and forming new friendships that I will cherish for the rest of my life."

Runner-up—Kirk Preston 

Language: Japanese
Site: Okayama, Japan

"Shibuya Crossing had me at the intersection of major streets in Shibuya City in Tokyo as well as members of my cohort. What I mean by that, is that in this photo, there are four CLS members with varying levels of Japanese, different ideas on how to use Japanese in their career, different lists of places to visit while in Tokyo, and different ideas on how to experience the city fully. Even with different ideas on how to make the most of the evening that was ahead of us, we each had a blast experiencing the places each person wanted to visit. From espresso at the Reserve Roastery to neon-filled streets in Shinjuku to ramen in the heart of Tokyo, we made it work. We turned the individual dreams we had of Tokyo into a shared experience for us all."