Three Florida State University students earn Critical Language Scholarships

From the left: Meagan McLaughlin, Mae Zitzke and Lauren Thornberg.
From the left: Meagan McLaughlin, Mae Zitzke and Lauren Thornberg.

Three Florida State University students have earned Critical Language Scholarships through the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to help further their study of foreign languages ​​and cultures.

According to the State Department, the CLS provides “rigorous academic instruction in 15 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.”

Jesse Wieland, associate director of the Office of National Fellowships said the CLS gives students a multi-faceted experience that goes beyond language.

“The main purpose is to help provide students who are passionate about language with a greater understanding of how that language is crucial to their academic and career goals,” he said. “The program provides classroom time, cultural excursions and conversation partners.

This year’s winners are:

Maelyn Zitzke

Zitzke, graduated in December from FSU with her bachelor’s in international affairs. Zitzke, who is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin will travel to Morocco to study Arabic.

“I am just really interested in this part of the world and it’s such an exciting opportunity,” she said. “I am still deciding what I want to do next with graduate school. Maybe, Arabic studies, or middle eastern studies, or international affairs and urban development.”

Zitzke said she started taking Arabic classes during her sophomore year which sparked an interest in the Middle East that she hopes will see her spend much time in the region in the future.

“This experience will for sure help my language learning, help me make the improvement that I’ve been wanting to make and really solidify what I’ve learned so far,” she said. “I am really excited about this as a cultural experience and getting a greater understanding of a region that I want to work in and see in the future.”

Megan McLaughlin
McLaughlin earned a CLS in 2021 but travel restrictions prevented her from traveling abroad and pivoted her to an online experience. This year, she’s excited to say that she is traveling to Amman, Jordan where she will continue to study Arabic.

“Being named a recipient the first time was a dream come true but being named a second time and getting to go abroad, it’s meant to be,” she said.

McLaughlin, who graduated from FSU with dual degrees in international affairs and political science, said she looks forward to immersing herself culturally.

“To go there and speak with people in person and really learn the mannerisms will really help me feel more confident in my Arabic proficiency,” she said. “To see how people carry themselves, how they greet each other and see them living their life in this culture you get to understand a different perspective.”

Lauren Thornberg
Thornberg, a master’s student studying urban and regional planning from Lewes, Delaware, will use the CLS to continue her study of Mandarin Chinese.

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