Victoria Nwankudu, a senior international affairs and Spanish major with a minor in Arabic from Florence, S.C., is the first Wofford College recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship in Arabic. She will study abroad in Morocco this summer at the Arab American Language Institute.
Four Wofford students have received the prestigious scholarship for immersive language study in China: WestLee Parker, Simon Worthy and Riddick Blocker, who graduated in 2016, and most recently Samuel Alford, a member of the Class of 2019, received the scholarship this past summer.
The Critical Language Scholarship is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. It offers nine languages that do not require any prior study including Hindi, Korean and Punjabi and five languages that have prerequisites including Arabic, Chinese and Persian.
"By participating in the CLS programs, students can improve their language and cultural proficiency while studying abroad through a well-structured curriculum," says Dr. Yongfang Zhang, associate professor of Chinese and on-campus advisor for CLS. "Not only will students experience tremendous regional diversity, but they will also build a strong connection between the region’s language and culture."
Nwankudu aspires to be a linguistic or political anthropologist. She was the college’s 34th Presidential International Scholar, so she knows the ins and outs of international travel, study and research. "There is a tremendous difference between arriving in Morocco with no Arabic skills at all and arriving with four semesters of Arabic and previous experience there."
As the Presidential International Scholar, Nwankudu studied the impact of languages on social movements in South Africa, Peru and Morocco. The experience showed her the importance of understanding the native language of the region where she conducted research.
"If the activists I interviewed in Morocco had not been proficient English speakers, the quality of my project would have decreased significantly," she says. "Going forward, I want to be the best researcher I can be, and that means doing the work necessary to become proficient in the languages I want to study."
For Nwankudu, understanding another language means more than just communicating — it is the closest one can get to understanding a country’s culture and view of the world. She has found that cultural immersion and language learning cannot be separated from one another.
"Any experience that takes you out of the native language of the culture that you wish to immerse yourself in ultimately takes you out of the culture itself," says Nwankudu. "If liberal arts colleges truly strive to create globally minded citizens who value tolerance and understanding, language studies and opportunities for cross-cultural exchange are crucial."
For more information about the CLS scholarship, contact Zhang at ZhangY@wofford.edu.
by Hayley Younginer ’19