Claire Conway

SPU senior Claire Conway is one of just 700 students this year to receive a coveted U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, a program designed to increase the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages.

Ordinarily, Claire might have traveled halfway around the world to Turkey to immerse herself in her target language. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has been adapted to offer eight weeks of daily online Turkish classes through Ankara University, conducted over Zoom.

“It was fun, but intense,” said Claire, after her first day of study in mid-June. “I am a total beginner in a class where we are not allowed to use any English.”

Learning Turkish is not a new kind of challenge for Claire, and her French professor at SPU has no doubt about this student’s language aptitude or her potential for success.

“I am a total beginner in a class where we are not allowed to use any English.”

“Claire is the finest student of French that I have had in my nearly 30-plus years of teaching French at the college level,” said Michelle Beauclair. “She had had no French before being placed in a Belgian high school for Rotary. She came to campus more advanced and proficient than any student I have had who was not raised in France.”

The CLS program promises to be a good next step for Claire, especially with her track record in language and desire to serve. She has already worked with a Turkish refugee group seeking asylum in France and helped craft their application letters to French authorities. The experience helped put her on the path from French to Turkish.

“I have always been passionate about languages,” she said. “I am studying French as my second major at SPU, and my interest in Turkish originated in part because of the country’s geopolitical significance as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East.”

Claire ConwayAccording to a State Department press release, the CLS program “plays an important role in preparing U.S. students for the 21st century’s globalized workforce, increasing American competitiveness, and contributing to national security.”

Claire’s Turkish summer is only a start, however. She is now applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for the 2022–23 school year, either in France or in Turkey, as a way to pursue her passions for teaching and cultural exchange.

She is a gifted and award-winning writer who works as a tutor in SPU’s Writing Center, as well as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter who just released an album this spring.

“I hope that the language and cultural skills I will learn over the course of the CLS program will open new doors for me internationally and make me a better advocate,” Claire said.

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