The Critical Language Scholarship is funded by the United States Department of State. And basically college students in the United States get to go abroad, to really cool places and study languages that are considered critically needed by the U.S. government. One of my favorite parts actually about the Critical Language Scholarship program is that you can’t speak English during it. It sounds really difficult, and it is but you can only speak in your target language. It is there to kind of keep people in the mindset that they’re there to learn the language. They’re there to interact with the locals and with the culture. It ensures that we’re not only studying the language, but we’re also using it. Being a part of a linguistic immersion experience is very different than for instance studying in a classroom. I mean you really get a full array of experiences, that you would have in any country, except you get to experience it with a more intimate level, with people in your host community. Learning a foreign language is almost like a new world, in a sense that it opens you up to a different culture, different type of food, or different music. But also being able to interact with a group of people that you never would have been able to, without that target language. We need to be able to have diplomats who speak the languages of the countries they’re going to. We need to have business leaders who can do deals in the language. And even in our American communities, people speak different languages. You can discuss a lot more, learn a lot more, when you’re talking to someone in their native language than if you’re requiring them to sort of meet you where you’re at. It makes you stand out; it’s what makes you unique. People are always genuinely surprised when I start speaking Arabic with them, and there’s this warmness and connection with them that is not expected. Personally I didn’t have the option to study Arabic at a younger age, but I wish I had. The younger you are, the easier it is for you to learn a language. It gets your brain used to thinking a different language, and that means that you can take advantage of opportunities for the rest of your life. What you get is what you put in. And CLS helped me to put in a lot of time and effort, to making sure that I was focused about learning the language, learning the culture, and being dedicated to that overall goal and mission. I would really encourage anyone and everyone to apply if they can. It’s really important both personally, and for the United States as a whole. If you have the opportunity to challenge yourself, and study a critical language, then I encourage you to do so.