Elon students receive State Department scholarships to study Hindi, Arabic

Shariq Ali ’20, Ashley Jutras ’20 and Styrling Rohr ’19 have received Critical Language Scholarships from the federal government to study foreign languages deemed critical to U.S. diplomacy and outreach.    


Three Elon University students will travel overseas this summer as part of a federal scholarship program to further their study of foreign languages critical to U.S. diplomacy and outreach.

Shariq Ali '20
Shariq Ali ’20, Ashley Jutras ’20 and Styrling Rohr ’19 are among the hundreds of 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 14 critical languages and provides fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to increase language fluency and cultural competency. Among the languages studied through the program are Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu.

Ali and Jutras will study Arabic from mid-June through mid-August, with Ali’s program taking place in Ibri, Oman, at the Noor Majan Training Institute and Jutras’s program taking place in Tangier, Morocco, at the Arab American Language Institute. Rohr will be studying Hindi in Jaipur, India, at the American Institute of Indian Studies from mid-June through mid-August.

These students will receive approximately one academic year of university-level coursework during the eight- to 10-week program, which includes formal classroom instruction for at least 20 hours a week.

​“Learning Arabic has been one of the highlights of my undergraduate experience, and I am so grateful to have received this opportunity to continue my passion of learning the Arabic language and culture in Oman, the country where I have a great amount of cultural heritage,” said Ali, who is majoring in international & global studies and in policy studies.

Extracurricular activities supplement work in the classroom, with students participating in regular one-on-one meetings with native speaker language partners for conversational practice. They will participate in cultural activities that will help them expand their understanding of the history, politics, culture and daily life of their host country, and in some cases, will be living with local host families.

“By studying Arabic, I will be better able to communicate with colleagues and clients when working in the field of refugee resettlement in the U.S.,” said Jutras, who is majoring in public health and human service studies. “Language is incredibly powerful, and having a connection with others based on common language can transcend many barriers.”

Both Ali and Jutras credit Shereen Elgamal, lecturer in Arabic, with mentoring them and inspiring them in their study of the language.

After classes in the morning, Rohr will spend her afternoons in Jaipur attending cultural activities classes or meeting with her language partner to practice Hindi. Past cultural activity classes offered by the program have included cooking, singing, Bollywood dance, painting or playing various musical instruments.

“The opportunities that the Critical Language Scholarship presents — to study Hindi, to go to India and to learn more about the cultures and languages I already love — are unbelievable,” said Rohr, who is majoring in anthropology and religious studies.

Rohr, a Multifaith Scholar, has conducted ethnographic research with mentor Amy Allocco, associate professor of religious studies, on Sikhs living in the United States. “Not only will this program help me become more proficient in a language that I plan to use, but it will also give insight into cultures I could not have gotten another way,” Rohr said.

These students are among the thousands of 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.

To learn more about the Critical Language Scholarship and other nationally competitive awards, visit the National and International Fellowships website where students and alumni can request an appointment, or stop by the office in Powell suite 108.