Wednesday, March 15, 2023
student smiling

University of Iowa international studies student Abigail Fowler of North Liberty, Iowa, has been awarded a 2023 U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study in Japan this summer at Okayama University for an intensive Japanese language program. 

The CLS scholarship is a U.S. Department of State program and is intended to help broaden the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages while building relationships between people of the U.S. and other countries. 

“I first heard about CLS in an email newsletter a little under a month before the application was due,” said Fowler. “It was a spur-of-the-moment decision and I had doubts about applying as the deadline was coming up soon and I didn’t know if I would be a competitive enough applicant. It was the support of classmates and staff in the International Studies Program that allowed me to think that CLS was a possibility for me.” 

"It was the support of classmates and staff in the International Studies Program that allowed me to think that CLS was a possibility for me.”

Fowler’s love of the Japanese language developed her first year at Iowa after she enrolled in a language course to fulfill a general education requirement. 

“I wanted to learn a new language and thought that knowing at least the basics of Japanese reading and writing may be a useful skill for someone pursuing an international career,” said Fowler. “After I began studying Japanese, however, I came to truly love the challenge that came with studying a language so different from my native tongue. It felt like diving into a new reality; there are three alphabets, many phrases don’t translate literally, and the sentence structure was difficult to wrap my head around at first. Learning Japanese was hard at first, and even now it’s still sometimes difficult, but that’s what’s so fun about it. I strongly believe that studying a country’s language is the quickest gateway into understanding its culture, and that’s what makes language learning so important.” 

CLS participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers. 

“I am interested in working abroad in Japan after graduation,” said Fowler. “Not only will this experience give me the opportunity to see if living in Japan longer-term would be right for me, but it will also allow me to make connections and friends across the ocean.” 

For Iowa students who are interested in international funding opportunities, Fowler highly recommends taking advantage of Iowa’s top-notch writing resources and the experienced staff in International Programs. 

“If you are interested in pursuing a CLS, don’t be afraid to ask for help!” said Fowler. “Much of my success with this scholarship can be attributed to Karen Wachsmuth, associate director of international fellowships, for her invaluable help workshopping my essays. The University of Iowa’s writing resources are unmatched, and a second pair of eyes on your application will make all the difference.” 



International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.