Clark School Sophomore Awarded U.S. Department of State 2014 Critical Language Scholarship

Civil and environmental engineering sophomore Isabella Pacho recently received a 2014 Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to study Arabic in Meknes, Morocco. Designed to provide students with intensive, fully supported summer language study experiences, the CLS program empowers students through a once-in-a-lifetime experience abroad studying Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Korean, Russian, Turkish or Urdu.

This year, the University of Maryland (UMD) received a total of nine CLS awards—the most ever for the university—which places UMD among the top 10 schools in the nation for CLS awards earned in 2014.

"I was inspired to begin my Arabic studies by my love for languages, culture and travel," said Pacho, who has been studying the language for about three years. "Once I started, I fell in love with the language because of its intricacies and linguistic beauty. I also really enjoy learning about Arab culture through the language.  Morocco, in particular, inspired me because of its diversity. There are people of many ethnicities here in Morocco and many different languages are spoken. It's a great place to focus on Arabic, see beautiful sites, and learn about Arab culture."

Pacho also chose Morocco because of her interest in efforts to increase the number of Middle Eastern women in pursuing careers in science, math and engineering. She first arrived in the country in June and plans to stay in Morocco until early August.

"Here in Meknes, I have the opportunity to talk with female students my age about their experiences in Moroccan universities and it has been a very enlightening experience," Pacho said. "I'm very excited about my CLS award. I most look forward to interacting with the Moroccan people and actually putting the Arabic I have learned from the textbook into practice."

Pacho is a participant in FLEXUS: The Dr. Marilyn Berman Pollans Women in Engineering Living and Learning Community, and she is a member of the Honors College. Her hope is to one day work abroad—perhaps for an international aid organization—to help improve infrastructure in developing countries.

The CLS program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

For more information about the CLS program, visit the CLS Scholarship website.

Published June 5, 2014