Fifteen students to use Undergraduate Language Grant to fund immersive language learning this summer


Evan Robinson-Johnson / Daily Senior Staffer

An assortment of student planners ready to be filled with summer plans. 15 students will received Undergraduate Language Grants for the summer.

Pranav Baskar, Assistant Campus Editor

A group of fifteen Northwestern students supported by the Undergraduate Language Grant will find themselves in countries like Turkey, South Korea and France this summer, where they will participate in immersive language programs.  

The ULG is an annual award that provides selected students with up to $5,000 in funding toward language study, geared specifically to support students who see language proficiency as central to their career goals. This year, the Office of Undergraduate Research awarded $75,000 in ULG grant funding.

ULG Coordinator and Assistant Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research Megan Wood said the program has been running for “at least” a decade.

“The primary goal is to help students gain an intensive learning of language — which everyone agrees is the best way to learn a language. But that’s not always feasible during the academic year,” Wood said. “One of the things that’s unique about this program is that there aren’t specific programs students have to choose from; rather, we just a list of requirements that a program has to fill, which makes it much more flexible for students to seek a program that best fits their needs.”

According to OUR’s website, programs are eligible for ULG funding if they last at least six weeks and stand the equivalent of “a year’s worth of college-level language instruction,” among other criteria. To apply, students must draft a proposal detailing how their program of choice will contribute to key career goals, submit at least two faculty references and present a planned budget.

The OUR welcomes applications from speakers of all levels.

“Applications from heritage speakers are very welcome,” the OUR website says, “… but like all applicants [students] must demonstrate how a summer of intensive language study will help [them] achieve specific academic or professional goals.”

Wood said the review process for the grant is extensive: each application is reviewed at least four times by a 16-member faculty committee made up of administrators and language professors.

Weinberg sophomore Mara Kelly, a recipient of the grant, said she will use the money to study Arabic in Amman, Jordan this summer.

“It’s an intensive summer Arabic program, so basically I’m in class all day for five days a week,” Kelly said. “I’ll learn a year’s worth of Arabic over the summer.”

Kelly said she finds studying the Middle Eastern/North African region “very interesting,” and she’s also passionate about politics and foreign policy. She hopes she’ll be able to apply the skills she learns this summer to those pursuits.

Wood said ULG’s flexible nature gives students a lot of space to push their language learning. Students can choose to study specific regional dialects and work with the Office of Fellowships to seek external grants to further defray program costs, Wood said.  

Wood said that while no quotas are implemented to ensure a balanced distribution of languages pursued through the grant, applications of recent years have embodied a natural diversity. She added that both students from Northwestern’s Evanston campus and NU-Qatar are eligible to apply for the program and receive funding.

Kelly said applying for a ULG was a “pretty big” process, but she is eager to see that work pay off this summer.

“Overall, I was super excited to get it and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to travel abroad this summer,” Kelly said. “I think it will be a really great program for me and a great way for me to increase my Arabic skills.”

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Twitter: @pranav_baskar