Critical Language Scholarship Program | Alumni Highlight
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The application for the 2022 CLS Spark initiative has closed. We will be in touch with all applicants following the review and selection process--thank you for your interest!

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a summer study abroad opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world.

The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Students of diverse disciplines and majors are encouraged to apply. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Each summer, CLS provides rigorous academic instruction in fifteen languages that are critical to America's national security and economic prosperity. CLS participants are citizen ambassadors, sharing American values and promoting American influence abroad.

Why You Should Study Abroad with the CLS Program

Key Benefits

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Develop Key Expertise

The CLS Program provides its scholars intensive language and cultural instruction in an environment designed to maximize their language gains at every level.

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Career Ready Skills

Alumni apply their critical language skills in a variety of professional fields in public and private sectors as well as government, helping to support America’s competitiveness across the board.

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Citizen Diplomacy

CLS scholars represent the breadth and diversity of the United States. Through personal engagement they help to spread American values and develop mutual understanding with the people of other countries.

  • Just having conversations with people and being open with them about what we did culturally where I’m from; I’ve always wanted to share that with people.
    Marcus Dunn, Korean 2011
  • Diplomatic representation of the monolith that is the United States military is very similar to the citizen diplomacy aspect of the CLS Program. You cannot begin to understand culture without the language component. With the CLS Program, you gain authenticity by learning the language.
    Andrea Howard, Azerbaijani 2015
  • "I had always been interested in learning about Brazilian culture and Portuguese language and CLS made that a reality for me."
    Max Courval, Portuguese 2020
  • "The Persian language opens a door to a universe of wonders within the collective history of humankind."
    Shabbir Abbas, Persian 2020

CLS News and Stories

Juneteenth—Celebratory and Somber: Reflections with Alumnus Benjamin Simington
Today is Juneteenth. Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day or Independence Day, is the oldest and most popular annual celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people. On June 19, 1865, Gordon Granger, a Union general, informed the people of Galveston, Texas that they were free …

June 19, 2022

Alumni Profile: Cynthia Johnson
Cynthia Johnson is an alumna of the 2021 CLS Korean Program hosted by Chonnam National University in Gwangju, South Korea. Cynthia graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in Critical Language and International Studies with a minor in Korean translation and local…

June 10, 2022

Pride Month showed me what was possible
Growing up in rural West Virginia in a town of only 544 people, I had resigned myself to never coming out. I was mainly concerned for my safety, but I also feared the judgment and strange looks I would receive from members of my hometown. Yet, seeing thousands of out and proud LGBTQ+ people, like S…

May 31, 2022

Advisor Chat: Yee Han Chu
Meet CLS Advisor Yee Han Chu! Yee Han advises for the CLS Program in her role as Academic Support and Fellowship Opportunities Coordinator at University of North Dakota (UND). Yee Han uses an individual-centered approach when advising students, a skill she has honed from years as a clinical social …

May 26, 2022

CLS in the Press

2022 ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year Announced

Heather Sweetser (Arabic 2007), an Arabic instructor at the University of New Mexico, was selected as the 2022 ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year..

Shared from ACTFL, June 24, 2022

Voices of Exchange Podcast: Monumental Moments

In Richmond, Virginia, CLS Alumna Julia Beabout (Chinese 2012) and fellow International Exchange Alumnus Grady Hart teamed up to create Monumental Conversations, an augmented reality project that centers on the undertold stories of Black resilience and excellence in Richmond.

Shared from ExchangeAlumni, June 15, 2022

For four Penn Staters, Critical Language Scholarships will enable summer study

Penn Staters Jocelyn Krieger, Ashley Naraine, Juntae Rocker and Hannah Scholze have earned a 2022 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS).

Shared from Penn State, June 07, 2022