U.S. Dept. of State Scholarship Sent Local Student Valery Lavigne to Study in China

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Valery Lavinge in front of a temple stage in Tongli, a water village near Shanghai

EWING, NJ (10/12/2011)(readMedia)-- Valery Lavigne, a member of The College of New Jersey's class of 2011 and a resident of Belleville, studied Chinese in an intensive language institute in China through the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program. Lavigne is among the approximately 575 undergraduate and graduate students who received a scholarship from the 2011 CLS program to study languages such as Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish and Urdu.

Students who participate in this program spend seven to 10 weeks in one of the 14 countries where these languages are spoken. The CLS program provides fully funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the program and apply their critical language skills in their professional careers, something Lavigne is very keen on doing. She is currently in the medical review process to teach English in Asia with the Peace Corps and plans to apply for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship award

"Participating in the CLS program definitely strengthened my interest in careers with an international focus," said Lavigne. "I learned much more about opportunities that may be a good fit for me, such as positions with the Department of State."

At the College, Lavigne majored in cultural anthropology and minored in sociology and Mandarin Chinese. During her sophomore year, she studied in China through funds from the Freeman-ASIA award and the Gilman International Scholarship. Lavigne credits her education at TCNJ for part of her success.

"I'd like to thank Dr. Mi from the Modern Languages department and Dr. Adler from the Sociology and Anthropology department for their guidance and wonderful letters of recommendation," she said. "Dr. Mi taught my Chinese language classes since I was a freshman at the College, and he helped keep my interest in learning Mandarin going strong."

Studying in China through the CLS program helped Lavigne build on her knowledge of the Chinese language and culture. "Participating in the Shanghai summer institute has helped me to drastically improve my Chinese," she said. "Thanks to the CLS, I got to return to China and further enhance my understanding of Chinese culture, language, and current affairs. I have also had the chance to participate in amazing activities, such as spending a night with a Tibetan family in their village home, learning some Shanghainese [the local dialect of Shanghai], and visiting a school for children of migrant workers."

Lavigne also enjoyed the opportunity to learn from others during her stay in China.

"Another main benefit of the CLS program is that it is group-based," she said. "I have had the pleasure of meeting and learning from many smart and dedicated individuals: other American students in the program, as well as my teachers, language tutor, the staff, and Chinese roommates."

The U.S. Department of State launched the Critical Language Scholarship for Intensive Summer Institutes program in 2006 to increase opportunities for American students to study critical-need languages overseas. This program is part of a wider U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical languages. The 2011 CLS Program received over 5,200 applications. Representing all 50 states, students from a range of academic disciplines and U.S. colleges and universities were selected for scholarships in 2011 through a merit-based selection process.

More information about the CLS Program and other exchange programs offered by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs can be found at http://www.clscholarship.org and http://exchanges.state.gov.