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FSU students receive prestigious language study scholarships

Top row, from left: Grace Michaels, Jaime Lopez and Tetiana Panina. Bottom row, from left: Lauren Thornberg, Kinsey Kuhlman and Nick Hearing.

Six Florida State University undergraduate students were recently selected to receive nationally competitive language study scholarships through initiatives funded by the federal government to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages critical to national security and economic prosperity. 

Four FSU students won Boren Awards, offered through an initiative of the National Security Education Program, while two students won Critical Language Scholarships, offered through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  

Boren Awards allow students to study abroad for up to a year in areas of the world critical to U.S. national security. The scholarship provides up to $20,000 for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions that are underrepresented in study abroad programs and that are critical to U.S. interests, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East.

This year, the Boren Awards program has offered scholarship recipients a flexible start date between August and March because of travel restrictions due to COVID-19.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) provides American undergraduate students from diverse disciplines with eight to 10 weeks abroad while studying one of 15 critical languages. The program’s goal is for each scholarship recipient to act as a citizen ambassador in their country while finding their place in a globalized workforce. 

Unfortunately, while CLS still recognizes the achievement of being selected as a Scholar, they have decided to suspend all 2020 summer trips in accordance with the governmental travel advisories due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Instead they have invited grantees for several languages to participate in a CLS Virtual Institute and all grantees can reapply for the next cycle.

FSU’s 2020 Boren Scholarship recipients are:

Tetiana Panina, 21, a junior majoring in Russian from Kyiv, Ukraine, will study in Kharkiv, Ukraine. In the immediate future, she plans to commission as an Air Force officer and eventually hopes to compete for the post of Military Attaché to Russia or Ukraine.

“Living and studying in Kharkiv for a semester will allow me to develop my language skills, gain relevant firsthand experience within the region, and expand my understanding of Russian and Ukrainian culture and socio-political climates,” Panina said. “Obtaining a formal education within the field of Russian studies is relatively easy, however, within the current political climate, firsthand experience is far more difficult to come by. I believe that possessing this experience will prove invaluable in my future career goals.”

Lauren Thornberg, 21, a junior majoring in Chinese and anthropology from Lewes Beach, Delaware, will study Cantonese in Hong Kong. She plans to pursue an advanced degree in urban and regional planning in the future.

“Hong Kong struggles with some of the highest housing prices in the world, as well as stark inequality,” Thornberg said. “I hope to learn more about this and see what can be done to improve public housing.”

Grace Michaels, 22, a senior receiving a dual degree in international affairs and Russian language and literature from Fleming Island, will study Russian in Almaty, Kazahkstan. In the future, she plans to commission as a U.S. Naval Officer. 

“I am sure that an increased understanding of a foreign language and culture crucial to American foreign policy will contribute greatly to serving my country and my own professional development,” Michaels said.

Kinsey Kuhlman, 20, a sophomore double majoring in international affairs and Latin American and Caribbean studies from Bartow, will study in Florianópolis, Brazil. Her future plans are to become a Foreign Service Officer.

“This experience will help me develop an expertise in Latin American languages and affairs that I hope to use in the future as a Foreign Service Officer,” Kuhlman said.

Eric Feely, 26, a senior majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and studying Arabic from Tallahassee, was recognized as an alternate for the Boren scholarship. 

This year’s FSU Critical Language Scholarship recipients are:

Nicholas Hearing, 21, a junior Presidential Scholar majoring in international affairs and economics from Tampa, was chosen to study at the Arab American Language Institute in Meknes, Morocco. After graduating, he plans to attend graduate school, participate in the Peace Corps and work in the U.S. Foreign Service.

“Less than a year ago I felt CLS was out of my reach and unattainable, so I feel incredibly honored to have received the award,” Hearing said. “I am also deeply grateful for the guidance and encouragement of Josh Stanek in the Office of National Fellowships and Jessica Malo Valentine in the Arabic Program, without whom this opportunity would not have been possible. Despite the program’s understandable suspension this year, I look forward to applying again next year.”

 Jaime Lopez, 22, a senior Presidential Scholar majoring in international affairs and economics from Miami, was selected to study Russian in Vladimir, Russia. Following graduation, he will attend Georgetown Law and plans to work as an international lawyer and policy adviser for Russian and Eastern European affairs. 

“I was humbled to be chosen for this award, and tremendously excited for the chance to represent the United States abroad – particularly in Russia,” Lopez said. “Despite the suspension, however, I look forward to the opportunity to apply again and perhaps redeem that chance. I’d particularly like to thank my recommenders, as well as the Office of National Fellowships, and all the work these individuals put into helping me secure a seat in such a prestigious award.”

Sara Malmquist, 19, a sophomore majoring in international affairs from Claremont, California, Yasmine Mattoussi, 21, a senior majoring in international relations from Tallahassee and Sasha-Rae Moore, 22, a senior co-majoring in Japanese and Chinese from Orlando were recognized as alternates for the Critical Language Scholarship.

For more information on national scholarships, contact the Office of National Fellowships or the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards.