PRESTIGIOUS IMMERSION - UNA student Allison Ray was chosen to live in an Arabic-speaking country as part of a U.S. government scholarship program.

UNA student chosen for prestigious, competitive scholarship program

By: Jason Lankford

Posted: 4/1/10

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 there.

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 Morocco.

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 program.

"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 Dr. Christy.

"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 proficiency test."

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 go."
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