State Department awards scholarship to Elon junior

Alexandra "Allie" Barteldt will spend the summer in India learning the Hindi language with support from the federal Critical Language Scholarship Program.

Elon University junior Alexandra "Allie" Barteldt
Elon University junior Alexandra "Allie" Barteldt[/caption]An Elon University junior travels to India this summer to study Hindi as part of a federal scholarship program aimed at developing fluent speakers of languages critical to U.S. diplomacy and outreach.

Alexandra “Allie” Barteldt, a religious studies major from Mooresville, North Carolina, is among the approximately 550 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students selected for the U.S. Department of State’s 2015 Critical Language Scholarship Program.

The program supports the study of Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish or Urdu languages and provides fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to increase language fluency and cultural competency.

Scholarship recipients spend a minimum of 20 hours each week in the classroom with extracurricular activities that include regular one-on-one meetings with native speaker language partners, as well as activities to expand their understanding of the history, politics, culture and daily life of the host country. This will be a return visit to India for Barteldt, who lived and studied there for the 2014 spring semester.

Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers. Barteldt is planning to conduct undergraduate research in comparative mysticism between Hindu shakta traditions and those of West African ancestral tribes. Her focus is on rituals surrounding female spirit possession and how they relate to patriarchal structures that deny women social mobility and religious authority.

Barteldt said that in addition to improving her Hindi, she intends to spend her summer conducting ethnographic research by interviewing scholars and devotees of the Goddess, especially in northern regions of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. She plans to study this fall in Senegal to research the female experience of possession from a different cultural lens, one in which women are commonly ostracized for possession but are paradoxically regarded as holy and authoritative for ancestral West African tribes.

“I have always loved studying languages, as I spoke Greek from a young age and am now minoring in French,” Barteldt said. “However, I fell massively in love with Hindi last year and the culture in which I found it. I cannot wait to return again and continue learning while immersed in this exciting environment. I’m deeply appreciative of those who have invested in and supported me as I begin to forge my future career, with Hindi as a crucial element to my international skill set.”

The Critical Language Scholarship program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Selected finalists for this summer’s program hail from institutions of higher education from across the United States, including public and private universities, liberal arts colleges, minority-serving institutions and community colleges.

Participants are among the more than 40,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

In addition to her language studies, Barteldt serves as a resident assistant in the Global Neighborhood, she works as a Moseley Center student employee, she volunteers her time as an Alliance Study Abroad Ambassador, and she takes part in programs through the Kernodle Center for Serving Learning and Community Engagement.

She said she plans on applying for a Fulbright grant next year to continue her studies in India with hopes of later joining the Peace Corps, ideally in a French-speaking West African nation.

Barteldt is the daughter of Diane Araps of Mooresville, North Carolina. She is a graduate of Mooresville Senior High School.

Elon students and recent alums interested in this award or other nationally competitive fellowships are invited to visit the Office of National and International Fellowships in Lindner 200 or by calling (336) 278-6434.