University of New Mexico student, Megan Kashmer, recently won the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship. Kashmer is one of approximately 550 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who received a scholarship from the department’s CLS program in 2014.

CLS participants will spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes this summer in one of 13 countries to study Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu. Kashmer will be sent to Russia this summer to immerse herself in the Russian language and culture.

The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. The program provides fully-funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

Selected finalists for the 2014 CLS Program hail from all 500 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and represent more than 200 institutions of higher education from across the United States, including public and private universities, liberal arts colleges, minority-serving institutions and community colleges.

The CLS Program actively recruits in states and regions of the United States that have been historically under-represented in international exchange and encourages students from diverse backgrounds and academic majors to apply.  This year, over 300 professionals, including critical language faculty, area studies specialists, international education professionals and fellowship advisors, participated in the selection process for the CLS Program.