PRESTIGIOUS IMMERSION - UNA student Allison Ray was chosen to live in
an Arabic-speaking country as part of a U.S. government scholarship
UNA student chosen for prestigious, competitive scholarship program
By: Jason Lankford
UNA student Allison Ray has been chosen to be part of the Critical
Lang-uage Scholarship Program offer-ed by the U.S. Bureau of
Edu-cational and Cul-tural Affairs. She will spend this summer in an
Arabic-speaking country, enhancing her knowledge of the language and
learning more about the culture and customs of the people who live
Allison is one of only 537 students chosen out of over 5,300 applicants.
The country she will be staying in has yet to be determined at this
time. She will find out where she will be going during the course of the
next week. The possible countries are Egypt, Tunisia, Oman, Jordan or
Allison will spend seven to ten weeks in the country. She will attend
language classes for five days a week for at least five hours a day. 30
percent of the classes will focus on learning the specific dialect of
the region where she is assigned. The rest of the time will be spent
going on cultural excursions and spending time in the local community
amongst native speakers. The program is all-expenses-paid. Housing,
meals, trips and tuition are covered by the scholarship.
Allison has always wanted to study abroad and is very enthusiastic about
this opportunity. She has very few apprehensions about such a bold
venture and is eager to learn as much as possible.
"I hope to gain greater proficiency in Arabic, gain a broader global
perspective and network for future careers in the Middle-East" said Ray.
"I also hope to learn more about the cultures and lifestyles of people
who live in other countries."
Allison is now in her second semester of studying Arabic. She was
motivated to study Arabic for a variety of reasons.
"I've always been fascinated with Middle-Eastern culture and language,"
said Ray. "I'm really into learning more about Islam, the script is
really beautiful and I also wanted a challenge."
Allison's instructor, Haitham Bait Bilal, a native-speaker from Oman, is
excited to see one of his students receive this scholarship.
"I'm very glad one of my Arabic students won the scholarship because I
believe that studying abroad in a native-speaking country is very
important for learning a language," said Bait Bilal. "Ever since I have
been teaching Arabic, I have been hoping one of my students would get
the scholarship to study abroad. Allison has made me proud."
Dr. Craig Christy, the chair of the foreign language department, is also
very enthusiastic about having UNA represented in such a prestigious
"Allison was a very strong applicant," said Christy. "I am thrilled that
one of our students has been awarded one of these highly competitive
scholarships. I think this speaks volumes for the quality of our
program, our language partner, Haitham and our students."
Allison was made aware of the scholarship program through an e-mail from
"The application process was pretty tedious," said Ray. "In addition to
the application, I had to write four essays, obtain three letters of
recommendation, take a very long assessment test and a written and oral
This process is mainly done in order to determine which difficulty
level the applicant will be placed in. Allison believes she will be
placed in either the "beginner" or "advanced beginner" level. The
testing process is not entirely complete. Upon her return home, Allison
will be required to take a final assessment test.
According to Allison, both of her parents are proud of her, but it is
understandable that they are concerned about her safety.
"Both my mom and my dad have been very supportive," said Ray. "My dad
is excited for me, but worried. Overall, I am very excited and ready to
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