Two New College of Florida students have been awarded Critical Language Scholarships from the U.S. Department of State and will travel abroad this summer to study in language immersion programs.
Andrea Brody-Barre, a fourth-year student from New York City, will study Arabic in Rabat, Morocco. Robert Matthew Klinkel, a third-year student from Orlando, will study Chinese at a location to be determined.
The Critical Language Scholarship program is highly selective, with only about one out of eight applicants receiving support for travel and study. Recipients are chosen by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Brody-Barre is studying political science and international area studies, but also has been active in dance, theater and the New Music New College series. The interest in arts has been important: “It inspired me to be open to new directions,” she said.
She moved into her current area of study, and traveled to Israel for a one-month intensive language program in Hebrew at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. While she was traveling in the region, mass demonstrations began in Egypt.
“There was something about watching your TV while in Jordan, watching the protests in Tahrir Square, hours before getting on the bus to go back to Israel,” she said. “There was definitely an energy to the place. It had a bigger impact on me than I had anticipated.”
In her third year at New College, she traveled to Tunisia, in North Africa, conducted research that was later published, and “really fell in love” with the country. “My mom wasn’t sure I’d come back,” she said, but she did, for an internship in Washington, D.C. with InterAction, a consortium of non-governmental organizations.
Brody-Barre leaves for Rabat, Morocco’s capital, in early June to study at AMIDEAST, an American educational nonprofit group. With guidance from her advisor, Prof. Barbara Hicks, she is now finishing her thesis on the democratization process, and looking for opportunities to return to North Africa.
Matt Klinkel has been fascinated with languages for several years. It began at home, with a stepmother who spoke Lithuanian, Russian, Polish and more. He took Spanish in 10th grade, added French in 11th grade and found he loved the classes. So he got the course books for the next levels and studied over the summer, leaping to Spanish 5 and French 4 in 12th grade.
Around that time, he realized the power of languages. “There are countless people out there who are better at communicating in a language other than my native language, and every time I learn a language I open up the possibility to learn from millions of new people,” he said.
At New College, he studied German and Spanish before starting Chinese last year. He then got a summer job teaching English in China, and spent a month at Xi’an Fanyi University, where he lectured on education issues while building his Chinese skills at the same time.
In January, he traveled to the Beijing Institute of Education in China on a Gilman Fellowship for a month-long Chinese immersion course, learning about a semester’s worth of Chinese. He completed the second-highest of the Institute’s four courses, and rates himself as a “high intermediate” Chinese speaker.
Where he will study in the CLS program is pending the outcome of a placement exam, but it is likely to be in a smaller city, Klinkel said, where it is easier to maintain a “no English” rule. He leaves in early to mid-June.
He notes that language is fundamental to communication, but many people struggle to master languages beyond their own. “I want to be a resource to them and show the countless people out there who think they are simply ‘bad at language learning’ that there are many different approaches that work differently for different people,” Klinkel said.
As a psychology student, he is working toward that end with Prof. Heidi Harley by studying second-language acquisition, a division of linguistics that examines the process by which people acquire a new language. He is strongly considering going on to graduate-level work in the field, although he also is considering the U.S. Foreign Service.
The Critical Language Scholarships offer intensive summer language institutes in 13 critical foreign languages. The selection process is administered by American Councils for International Education with awards approved by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The CLS Program is administered by American Councils and The Ohio State University/Ohio University.