This year’s recipients of the highly coveted Critical Language Scholarship Award have been named, and two of them have exhibited why with their previous experiences and future aspirations.

The CLS Program, a fully-funded summer overseas language and cultural immersion program, aims to broaden the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages while building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries.

Finding a lifelong career through international experiences

Joseluis Ayala, an international studies major, said he studied Russian this summer in Nizhny Novgorod and is heavily involved in the National Security Studies program, even predicting the rise of ISIS.

Currently, Ayala is making plans for the future while keeping his prime concern his education, he said, which includes looking into a Fulbright grant or graduate school.

Ayala said studying abroad and his experiences at UNM have aided his search for the best career to suit him.

“Global Education Office and the Language Department at UNM made an effort to show UNM students how important studying abroad can be to language acquisition,” he said. “My experiences at UNM have helped me plan out my career goals.”

Ayala said international studies have also offered him new perspectives and possibilities.

“Study abroad is 25 percent in the classroom and 75 percent using the language, learning the culture, and making new friendships that last a lifetime,” he said.

As for long-term career goals, Ayala said he’s considering working in the Department of State, either as a Foreign Service Officer or a Diplomatic Security Agent.

A desire to help voiceless people

Annie Edwards studied Korean in Gwangju, South Korea, and, because of her time spent there, she hopes to one day work as a correspondent journalist in Korea, focusing on the accounts of the North Korean refugees who flee to live in South Korea.

“My time in Korea only made me more motivated to continue learning Korean and return to Gwangju in the future. I got lost so many times in the two months I lived there, but every moment was so worth it,” Edwards said. “I lived and laughed with an incredible host sister, talked about politics with my language partner, and explored history and culture.”

These explorations included visits to Gwangju's Asia Culture Center, Gyeongju's UNESCO Heritage sites, museums in Seoul covering the creation of the Korean alphabet, and much more, she said.

Edwards said that people, not just places, had a positive and enriching effect on her time in South Korea as well.

“My host sister was one of the most amazing, kind and hardworking people I know. She's studying architecture, learning French at an academy, and working,” she said. “She was only about a year older than me, so I called her ‘Eunni,’ which is basically a friendly familial expression in Korean that means older sister.”

Edwards said she also teamed up with a language partner, a Korean student from her university, Chonnam National University, who she met up with a couple times per week to practice one on one.

“The language partners for the program were really generous, and we often went out as groups for meals or activities,” she said.

UNM has also played a part in steering Edwards further into her true passion: human rights.

“It wasn't until recently that I knew I wanted to report on human rights as a journalist,” Edwards said. “I owe much of that to classes at UNM. Through anthropology, political science and peace studies classes in my international studies major, I realized how powerful the literature we read was, and how much I learned from it.”

For Edwards, studying international studies at UNM also helped put things into perspective.

“It also emphasized the importance of communicating with people around the world and amplifying their voices so they can tell their own stories and experiences to a wider platform,” Edwards said.

Edwards is already planning to continue her studies abroad in Japan for an entire year to proceed with her Japanese studies.

“Once I graduate from UNM, I plan to apply for a teaching position in Korea to work and improve my Korean language skills and apply for graduate schools there for journalism,” she said.

Edwards encourages every student for apply for the CLS, especially when considering it as a means of discovering the potential of language.

“So much culture is ingrained in language,” she said. “For example, the grammar structure of Korean includes various forms of polite speech, which speaks volumes about Korean culture. CLS is just such an amazing opportunity.”

GEO Education Abroad Advisor Susan Knoblauch said she is proud of the students she has worked with and recognizes how competitive and reputable the CLS award is.

“Students who win the award can be indeed very proud of themselves. It is a huge achievement, comparable with a Fulbright award,” Knoblauch said.

Students who complete the CLS program not only improve their language, but their comprehension of different cultures and how they relate to one another, she said.

“CLS applicants and award winners have a strong sense of their career goals,” Knoblauch said. “It is a true pleasure to work with them. CLS program students make my work meaningful and happy.”