Yelen awarded Critical Language Scholarship

Nesibe Yelen

By: Amber Austen
Office of Media Relations

University of Central Arkansas student Nesibe Yelen is the recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship that will allow her to study abroad in South Korea for summer 2022.

Yelen, who is already bilingual, is a sophomore biology pre-dental major from Little Rock. Her native language is Turkish, and she has always had a passion for learning about different languages and cultures, which is why she applied for the scholarship program.

The Critical Language Scholarship program is a U.S. Department of State-sponsored program designed to give American college students cultural immersion experiences abroad and grow the number of U.S. students who study a foreign language. The program aims to increase fluency in languages that are significant in the global workforce.

“At first, I was concerned about [the program] accepting me and my major. In my application, I explained how learning Korean would elevate my career goals as Korea has advanced dental technology. I can do research in my future career and read medical research papers to help me further advance my knowledge,” Yelen said. “There are lots of ways people can relate and find connections between their work and different cultures.”

Yelen will be staying in Busan at Pusan National University. The program is immersive, and students are encouraged to actively practice the Korean language and avoid speaking English if possible. Yelen expressed she is a little nervous because she knows little Korean, but she is excited to explore South Korea’s historical sites and participate in its traditional activities all while getting out of her comfort zone and learning more about herself.

“Language learning can train you to be more disciplined as a lot of time and energy goes into it. Keeping an open mind is important as you learn first-hand about cultural conflicts faced in a foreign position,” Yelen said. “Do not compare your own culture to the one you are learning or default back to your own. Use the other culture as a baseline and keep an open mind.”

About the Critical Language Scholarship program
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend eight to ten weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. CLS, a program of the U.S. Department of State, is part of a wider government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. CLS plays an important role in preparing students for the 21st century’s globalized workforce and increasing national competitiveness.