Two win Critical Language Scholarships from U.S. State Department
One recent Connecticut College graduate and one rising senior will spend their summers immersed in a new language and culture. Emily Hackett ’23 and Felipe De Los Santos ’24 have each received a Critical Language Scholarship from the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, for 10 weeks of study in an intensive language program.
Critical Language Scholarships cover the language program costs, including travel, room and board. Students must demonstrate a commitment to and strong love for a language in this highly selective program. Past recipients from Conn have gone on to land prestigious scholarships, including a U.S. Fulbright Student Program grant and a Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship, and have been admitted to top graduate schools, including Georgetown, Duke and Harvard.
Hackett, who is from Norwich, Vermont, graduated this month with a double major in international relations and Slavic studies and a minor in German studies. She will spend two months studying Russian at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
“I have spent a significant portion of my life in the Czech Republic, where my mother’s family is from,” she said. “When I started my education at Connecticut College, I decided I wanted to explore my Czech identity more in the Slavic Studies Department, which is how I came to start studying Russian.”
This is Hackett’s second time winning this scholarship, but her first experience was virtual due to COVID. Through her courses in Eastern European history and politics, she developed an interest in the history and diplomatic relations of the greater post-Soviet space, which is what led her to continue learning Russian with her first CLS Scholarship in the summer of 2021, after which she studied abroad in Kyiv, Ukraine.
“My research interests in college have centered around international education and soft diplomacy, culminating in my senior thesis, Fostering Communist Elites: Cold War Czechoslovakia’s Foreign Student Program, in which I write about how Czechoslovak students studied abroad in Soviet higher education institutions,” she said.
On campus, Hackett worked at Shain Library and was a Walter Commons Fellow, a German tutor and a scholar in the College’s Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA). She also organized this year’s annual World Languages Day.
About her summer in Kyrgyzstan, Hackett said she looks forward to exploring the Kyrgyz culture, meeting new people and furthering her understanding of the legacy of the Russian language and the Soviet Union in this part of the world.
This fall, she will begin a master’s degree program in “Regional Studies: Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia” at Harvard University.
De Los Santos, a history major and a government minor from Yonkers, New York, will also be studying Russian this summer, through a program hosted by American Councils for International Education in Chisinau, Moldova.
On campus, De Los Santos is part of the History Student Advisory Board, serving as a liaison between Conn’s history majors and the department’s faculty.
“I have always been interested in Soviet history, and as I advanced through my studies at Conn, I realized how important language is. I have come to view languages as a tool to break barriers and communicate, something I believe is critical now more than ever.”
De Los Santos pointed out that Russian often evokes images of only Russia, but the language has a massive diaspora. He is eager to take on the challenge of learning a language and also learning about Moldova and its culture.