Seniors Win Critical Language Scholarships to Study Abroad in Turkey, Kyrgyzstan

Two students from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville have received fully-funded scholarships to travel abroad this summer to study languages ​​considered crucial to the future security and stability of the United States.

This year’s Critical Language Scholarship recipients will study Turkish and Russian.

Diba-Seddighi.jpgDiba Seddighi, a senior from Farragut, Tennessee, studying global public health through the College Scholars Program, will travel to Ankara, Turkey. As a volunteer with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Seddighi saw an influx of Turkish immigrants in the Knoxville area and struggled to understand how impersonal it was not being able to communicate directly with them.

“We didn’t have individual volunteers who could communicate and we used translation and interpretation services. I was unable to provide them with the authenticity they needed, which made me want to study Turkish myself.

Although she describes herself as a beginning language learner, her volunteer work with refugees introduced Seddighi to conversational Turkish. She hopes her studies will enable her to work with more global organizations that have an impact on public health.

Megan-Whittle.jpgMegan Whittle, a senior from Manchester, Kentucky, studying nuclear engineering and Russian, will travel to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. His interest in nuclear security led Whittle to begin studying Russian as a second language at UT.

“I want to improve my command of Russian, and I took all the courses I could offer at UT. So studying abroad was the next step,” Whittle said. “I’ve heard great things about people who have taken CLS and how the program improves their fluency and knowledge of the language.”

She hopes the study abroad experience and time spent learning Russian will propel her towards her dream of working for the government in the nuclear field.

Three other students have been designated substitutes and could receive scholarships if places become available in the coming months.

The Critical Language Scholarship is a US State Department program that aims to increase the number of Americans studying languages ​​essential to the nation’s engagement with the world. Recipients spend eight to ten weeks abroad learning one of 15 languages ​​(Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish or Urdu) and serve as ambassadors representing the diversity of the United States and building lasting relationships with people in their host countries.

The program includes intensive language lessons and cultural enrichment experiences. Recipients are expected to continue their language studies beyond the scholarship and apply their essential language skills in their future careers.

UT students interested in applying for the Critical Language Scholarship can visit the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarships to learn more about the program and make an appointment to meet with a member of staff.


Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,

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