Skip to main content

WVU students awarded Critical Language Scholarships

Side by side headshots of two WVU students, one male and one female, taken on the WVU campus.

WVU students James Campbell and Felicia Carrara are recipients of the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship and will use the funding to study Arabic and Russian, respectively, abroad this summer. (WVU Graphic)

Download full-size

Two West Virginia University undergraduate students are recipients of the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship and will study foreign languages abroad this summer.

James Campbell and Felicia Carrara received scholarships to spend eight weeks abroad studying Arabic and Russian, respectively. Their selection marks the 14th consecutive year one or more WVU students have been awarded the competitive scholarship.

The scholarship program seeks to expand the number of Americans studying languages that are essential for the United States’ engagement with the world. 

Campbell, a Parkersburg native and junior international studies major, will travel to Jordan. With special interests in international development and the Middle East region, he’ll have the opportunity to expand his understanding of the area and its primary language.

“I’ve always wanted to travel around the world,” he said. “And I think having immersive language programs are the best way to learn a language, especially one with as many complexities as Arabic.”

Campbell, who aspires to one day work for the federal government or a non-governmental organization, will live with a host family in Jordan which, he said, will be helpful for learning the language and understanding the culture.

“The program is incredibly rigorous and they want you to use only Arabic for the entire time as much as physically possible,” he said. “Even just this one summer program is considered to be as effective as an entire year of learning in classes.”

As someone who will be traveling outside North America for the first time, Campbell is excited to explore a new country.

“Jordan has some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world,” he said. “There are so many historical and archaeological sites around the country that I’d love to get to see.”

Carrara lived in Costa Rica and Nicaragua between the ages of 12 and 16 while her parents worked for a non-governmental organization.

The Charlotte, North Carolina, native and double major in international studies and Russian studies developed a love for languages during her time abroad.

“I started learning Spanish when we were living in Central America to be able to communicate and I really loved it,” Carrara said. “There is a large Hispanic population in Maryland, where we moved to when we got back, so I continued to speak the language. That feeling of being able to talk to people in their home language wherever I’m at, wherever they’re at, really propelled me.”

After teaching herself Italian in high school, Carrara chose to study Russian at WVU to diversify her language skills. She’ll travel to Kyrgyzstan in June and spend two months immersed in Kyrgyz culture and the Russian language.

She’ll also have the opportunity to learn about Muslim culture and religion as approximately 90% of Kyrgyzstan’s population is Muslim.

“You learn something about yourself and about the world when you’re abroad that you could never learn at home,” she said. “You also realize that everyone is more the same than they are different, no matter how different things might seem from the outside. We have the same desires and same priorities, although they might be expressed in different ways.”

The Critical Language Scholarship program includes intensive language instruction and cultural enrichment experiences. Recipients serve as ambassadors representing the diversity of the United States and build lasting relationships with people in their host countries. They are also expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and to apply their skills in their future careers. 

University students interested in the Critical Language Scholarship can work with the ASPIRE Office to learn more and apply. Founded in 2006, the office assists students applying for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, as well as students applying for graduate or professional school. 



MEDIA CONTACT: Lindsay Willey
Director of Marketing and Communications
WVU Honors College

Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.