Monday, March 25, 2024
student smiling with flowers

University of Iowa psychology major Shefa’a Tawil of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been awarded a 2024 U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study in Meknes, Morocco, this summer for an intensive Arabic 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. 

Originally from Palestine, Tawil grew up speaking Arabic. However, during her assimilation to public schools at a young age, Tawil lost many of her language skills. 

“My Arabic reading and writing skills were subpar at best, and as I grew, I realized how important it is to relearn Arabic not only for myself but for all of the Arabic-speaking world,” said Tawil. 

Tawil credits her decision to apply for the CLS after hearing from friends’ experiences who were previous CLS awardees, and the encouragement of her professors. 

“Their tales of how much they learned and grew in the Arabic language encouraged my decision to apply,” said Tawil. “Dr. Yasmine Ramadan, the director of the Arabic program, also influenced my decision to apply as she devoted an entire class to teaching us about opportunities like CLS.” 

CLS participants are encouraged to apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers. For Tawil, improving her Arabic is about more than just a career. 

“In my visits to Palestine, I’ve witnessed the heroism of the medical professionals as they administered aid to civilians wounded by the occupation forces while praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and then were targeted for it,” said Tawil. “These memories shape my aspirations of becoming a trauma surgeon and returning to volunteer in Palestine with Doctors Without Borders. My experience with CLS will bring me closer to this goal, as being able to speak Arabic is essential to it. I am unable to express my gratitude and appreciation for CLS in helping me take steps needed to achieve this. Someday, I hope to have half of the heart those medical professionals do.” 

For other Iowa students curious about CLS, Tawil wants to “encourage everyone to apply.” 

“What’s holding you back? If it’s time, time will pass whether you use it to apply, scroll through your phone, talk to your friends, or work on your homework. One can learn even from an email saying they didn’t make it.” 

Learn more about the Critical Language Scholarship


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.