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**Scholarship Awarded to Bard College Student for Overseas Language Study**

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON- Melonie Bisset ’24, a senior at Bard College majoring in film and electronic arts, has been awarded a prestigious Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for the upcoming 2024 summer session. The CLS program, administered by the US Department of State, offers selected individuals overseas placements that involve intensive language training and structured cultural immersion experiences aimed at fostering rapid language proficiency. Every summer, undergraduate and graduate students from various US colleges and universities embark on an 8 to 10-week journey to study one of 13 languages at specialized institutes abroad. The primary goal of the CLS Program is to facilitate rapid language acquisition and enhance cross-cultural fluency in regions vital to US national security and economic interests. The languages covered include Arabic, Azerbaijani, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.

Melonie Bisset will focus on learning Portuguese at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The CLS Program in Rio de Janeiro offers a language learning environment structured to cover the equivalent of a full academic year of university-level Portuguese studies within an intensive eight-week period. During her stay in Brazil, Bisset will reside with a local host family, sharing breakfast with them daily and spending leisure time with them on weekends. Host families play a crucial role in helping students assimilate into the daily life of Rio de Janeiro, introducing them to their social circles and providing opportunities to practice Portuguese in a relaxed setting. Additionally, students engage with language partners for several hours each week to enhance conversational skills and explore the city, organizing activities based on mutual interests.

Expressing her deep-rooted interest in diverse cultures, Bisset emphasizes her sense of belonging at the crossroads of multiple cultural influences. Brazilian culture, with its rich tapestry of diversity, has always intrigued her, particularly the works of Brazilian filmmakers addressing themes such as ecocinema, poverty, and multiculturalism. Her long-term vision involves establishing a nonprofit organization in the US dedicated to fostering cross-cultural exchanges and mutual understanding through language and art.

Grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Critical Language Scholarship program, Bisset shares her enthusiasm for the upcoming Portuguese language immersion experience in Rio de Janeiro. With a multicultural and multiracial background encompassing English, Mandarin, and Spanish fluency, coupled with her roles as a TESOL instructor, filmmaker, Argentine Tango dancer, translator, and storyteller, she envisions leveraging these skills to promote intercultural understanding through arts and languages. The immersive experience in language and culture in Brazil is expected to leave a lasting impact on both her personal growth and professional trajectory.

The CLS Program serves as a cornerstone of the US government’s efforts to enhance Americans’ proficiency in critical foreign languages. By equipping CLS scholars with vital language and cultural competencies, the program aims to bolster US economic competitiveness and national security. Each year, around 500 American students from colleges and universities nationwide are competitively selected to partake in the CLS Program.

“Critical” languages, which are typically underrepresented in US educational curricula, play a pivotal role in shaping America’s global engagements. The CLS initiative plays a crucial role in preparing American students for the demands of the 21st-century global workforce, thereby enhancing national competitiveness and security. CLS scholars act as cultural ambassadors, embodying the diversity of the United States while forging enduring connections with individuals in their host countries.