U of A Senior Studies Abroad in India with Department of State Scholarship
University of Arkansas student Jessica Garross spent the summer studying the Urdu language in Lucknow, India, as an awardee of the 2017 U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.
Garross, one of only 27 students in the nation selected for the award, spend eight weeks in intensive Urdu courses at the American Institute of Indian Studies.
Participating students were required to speak Urdu exclusively for the last six weeks of the program. Garross said that was a challenge, as she had very limited Urdu language abilities before arriving in India.
"Speaking only in Urdu was really difficult for me, because I was only a beginner," she said. "However, being immersed in the language and the culture really helped me improve my skills."
Garross believes she has improved her Urdu abilities to an intermediate level, as a result of the program. However, maintaining her skill level has been challenging, since she returned from India.
"The U of A doesn't offer Urdu classes, so that makes things a little bit difficult for me," she said. "But, I have some Pakistani friends that I try to practice with regularly, and I try to watch a lot of movies and listen to a lot of music spoken and sung in Urdu."
Garross' eight-week stint in India was the third study-abroad experience she has had during her time at the U of A. She previously participated in the Global Community Development program in Mozambique, the Global Community Development program in Belize and spent a semester studying Arabic in Morocco. Though her study abroad experiences have been varied, Garross has found a common thread in all the communities she's visited.
"I've found the similarities we have with other cultures are greater than our differences," she said. "Even when there are differences, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Differences can be beautiful. It would be pretty boring if we were all the same."
Garross, a native of Flower Mound, Texas, is an international business major with a minor in Arabic. She plans to work with refugees after graduating from the U of A in December 2017.
Students interested in learning more about U of A study abroad opportunities or applying for the Critical Language Scholarship Program scholarship should contact the Office of Study Abroad and International Exchange. The deadline for the 2018 Critical Language Scholarship Program is Nov. 15.
Amanda Cantu, director of communications
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