Elon University sophomore Alex Mancuso and senior Ben Lutz have received Critical Language Scholarships from the federal government to study Arabic.
Elon University’s Alex Mancuso ’19 and Ben Lutz ’17 will be traveling overseas this summer as part of a federal scholarship program to further their study in a foreign language critical to U.S. diplomacy and outreach.
Mancuso and Lutz are among more than 500 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students selected for the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Program.
The program supports the study of Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, 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.
Mancuso will be studying Arabic in Tangier, Morocco, from mid-June through mid-August at the Arab American Language Institute while Lutz will be studying Arabic in Jordan.The program is designed to cover the equivalent of one academic year of university level Arabic study in just eight weeks, with time spent each week learning Modern Standard Arabic and the local Arabic dialects.
“It’s extremely exciting to know that I’ll be meeting and working with such amazing students in such an enchanting region,” Mancuso said. “This scholarship will provide me a strong foundation for the Arabic language that I can continue building upon with the goal of working in the Middle East.”
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.
Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.
Outside of the classroom, the program will offer a variety of enrichment activities that are designed to help expand understanding of Moroccan life and culture. During past summers, these activities have included learning to cook traditional Moroccan tagine as well as a weekend trip into the Sahara Desert to learn more about the Berber and nomadic cultures of southern Morocco.
Mancuso and Lutz will live with local host families, which offers the opportunity to experience life in a local family and practice Arabic outside of the classroom. The experience includes eating breakfast and dinner with the host family each day, offering further insights into local culture and the opportunity to develop bonds with the family.
Mancuso, originally from Acworth, Georgia, is majoring in international studies as well as cinema and television arts. He’s a Communications Fellow who is involved with elondocs, the program for documentary production in Elon’s School of Communications. After graduating, he plans to pursue a career as a foreign news correspondent or an international documentarian.
Lutz received a Critical Language Scholarship in 2016 to study Arabic in Tangier and had initially been named as an alternate for the scholarship for this summer. Lutz learned in May that he had been selected for the scholarship and will be heading to Jordan.
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.