Temple’s 2021 Critical Language Scholarship Winners

Temple University College of Liberal Arts (CLA) students have a long and storied tradition of winning prestigious scholarships, and 2021 has been no different. This year, all three of the university's Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) winners are CLA students, with one student winning the award for the second year in a row!

  • Alexander Litz, Undergraduate Student, Mandarin Chinese
  • Coral I. Zayas-Colón, Graduate Student, Portuguese
  • Veronika Vologina, Undergraduate Student, Turkish

The U.S. Department of State's highly competitive CLS program exists to expand the number of American students who study and master foreign languages.

Below, all three winners detail their application experience, give advice to future applicants and explain how the CLS will benefit them in their career paths.

Alexander Martin Litz | CLA '21 | Asian Studies and International Affairs Double Major

I chose Temple's College of Liberal Arts and Japan Campus because of the value of studying Asian Studies and International Affairs in a setting where I could see my classroom studies play out in real life. I always intended to go to university in Japan, where I lived when I was younger. As an American university, Temple allowed me to participate in a wider array of exchange opportunities such as the TUSA (Taiwan), the Boren (Taiwan) and CLS (Mainland China).

Winning a CLS made me feel that my years of study and hard work had paid off! This was the fourth consecutive year I had applied, and while Mandarin started as a hobby for me, it evolved. Now I can communicate in a professional setting, and receiving a CLS feels like an accumulative achievement of all my effort.

While in the program I hope to gain a better grasp of Mainland China's accent, values and culture. Despite studying Mandarin Chinese for over four years, I have primarily spoken with Taiwanese speakers, and I have never even been to the Mainland! This will be an interesting opportunity to learn more about the differences between the two countries and hear China's perspective on Taiwanese affairs.

The experience will help me build my career because Mandarin will soon become the most widely spoken language. By achieving a high proficiency now, I am setting myself up for a future where I can go work, live and explore where I please without the hindrance of a language barrier. Already, no matter where I go, I always find Mandarin speakers with whom I can communicate.

My advice to students considering applying for a CLS is not to give up. Every time I applied for a CLS over the last four years, my goals, plans and reasons for applying to CLS have changed. Use change as a catalyst for how you'll use your CLS language in the future and reflect on how you might continue changing.

Veronika Vologina | CLA '22 | Global Studies and Economics Double Major

I chose Temple's College of Liberal Arts because I admired the flexibility in the major requirements and every semester's course offerings. Many of the classes I've taken have been new and innovative as CLA tackles emerging topics within my majors. I also chose Temple for CLA's many study abroad opportunities. I've gone abroad three times, and I took core major requirement courses at each study abroad program!

Winning a CLS made me feel confident in my skills as a writer for the first time. It also validated that what I desire to study is relevant to today's world. Winning the CLS a second time made me feel extremely validated in my language learning skills because of scholarship program's faith in my future career goals.

While in the program I hope to improve my ability to communicate with people in Turkish and bring cultural understanding to both parties. Turkish is an underrepresented language, and the CLS program helps bridge the gap between Americans and Turkish-speaking communities. I also hope to read Turkish news sources to see how their perspective may differ from English-speaking media outlets.

This will help my career because language learning always opens doors in places you least expect them, and I have had anecdotal moments in my own life with Turkish. But professionally, studying the language shows employers my deep-rooted passion for the Central Asian/Caucasus region as I look into research and consulting positions in international relations. I hope to one day work on US-Turkish policy as the countries navigate their roles in the world.

My advice to students considering applying for a CLS is to wear your heart on your sleeve! Promoting your true passions in both language learning and your target language humanizes you. I wrote about the times I made silly mistakes while abroad and how I grew up with Turkish music and was open about my personal and professional interest in Turkish. Also, the Office of Scholar Development and Fellowships Advising is an amazing resource that helped me with both of my CLS applications with positive outcomes!

Coral I. Zayas-Colón | CLA '25 | Spanish PhD

I chose Temple's College of Liberal Arts because of its extensive course offerings, interdisciplinary and praxis-centered research opportunities, student body diversity, and remarkable faculty. But I also have a more personal reason. When I was assessing my graduate school options in fall 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Temple was one of the few universities with staff that asked about my safety and offered to support my application process. That, to me, was priceless.

Winning a CLS made me feel proud, empowered and capable. It took me three months to prepare the application, and the hard work paid off. It also demystified the highly competitive grant application process; while it is time-consuming and laborious, it is not unachievable.

While in the program I hope to build on my current knowledge of Portuguese and Lusophone communities, specifically Brazil, as a stepping stone to my long-term language goal. I also hope to forge meaningful relationships that will become lifelong friendships and colleagues.

It should help advance my career by furthering the language skills and cultural experiences that are essential to my professional goals of conducting research promoting the understanding of multilingual communities, multilingual education and language rights.

My advice to students considering applying for a CLS is to GO FOR IT! You'll improve your foreign language proficiency, foster transferable skills like intercultural competence and adaptability, and work with people from various backgrounds, all while building international social capital. Even if you are not chosen as a finalist, creating an application allows you to reflect on your personal and professional narratives and strengthen your grantsmanship skills. Get in touch with our Office of Scholar Development and Fellowships Advising as soon as possible. Without them, this would not have been possible.