Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Shane Weitzman

University of Iowa student Shane Weitzman spent the summer studying Hindi in Jaipur, India as an awardee of the 2017 U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship.

For eight weeks, Weitzman and 27 other American students from institutions across the United States participated in intensive Hindi courses at the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan, was once part of the kingdom of Amer and contains the Jantar Mantar Observatory and Amer Fort, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Weitzman and his fellow CLS program participants lived with local Hindi-speaking host families and met regularly with local peers to learn more about the Hindi language and develop their personal networks. The group engaged in cultural excursions, lectures and other enrichment activities designed to support and enhance language learning and exposure to the host culture.

During one excursion this summer, CLS students had the opportunity to visit the Barefoot College at Tiloniya, a non-profit social entrepreneurship, and development organization founded on a Gandhian principle of self-reliant communities. At the Barefoot College, students learned about the organization’s work in women empowerment, solar engineering, education, water purification, and more.

CLS students and instructors listen to a presentation from solar oven engineers at the Barefoot College.

CLS students and instructors listen to a presentation from solar oven engineers at the Barefoot College

With over 260 million native speakers, Hindi is the fourth most spoken language in the world. As it is mutually intelligible with Urdu, Hindi speakers can communicate with people of many countries, including India, Nepal, Pakistan and other Hindi-speaking diasporic communities around the world, including in the US. The CLS Program runs every summer and is open to American students at colleges and universities. Applications for the 2018 CLS program are available at Applications are due November 15, 2017.

What is the CLS Program? The CLS program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. CLS scholars gain critical language and cultural skills in languages that are less commonly taught in U.S. schools, but are essential for America’s engagement with the world, contributing to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

In 2017, 555 American students representing 217 colleges and universities across the United States were competitively selected from over 5,000 applicants to receive a CLS award. Each CLS scholar spends eight to ten weeks in one of 22 locations studying Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, or Urdu.

The program provides funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. CLS scholars serve as citizen ambassadors, representing the diversity of the United States abroad and building lasting relationships with people in their host countries. They are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future careers.

For further information about the Critical Language Scholarship or other exchange programs offered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, please contact and visit our websites at and