SCVi Senior Spends Summer Advancing Language Studies Through U.S. State Department
Across the United States, millions of high schoolers take foreign language courses each and every year. Indeed, it’s an expectation for most post-secondary opportunities, as well as many high school diplomas. However, very few work hard to continue their language studies over the summer voluntarily. That’s usually the case unless your iLEAD SCVi Senior Raven Hurlbert.
Hurlbert – who has been studying both Mandarin and Japanese for several years – was awarded a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Virtual Summer Intensive Scholarship to study Chinese (Mandarin) language for six weeks this past summer. NSLI-Y is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) that promotes critical language learning among American youth.
The 2021 Virtual Summer Intensive program was an online alternative for NSLI-Y immersion programs that could not take place overseas due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This program provides robust language and cultural learning opportunities by virtually connecting the participants with overseas teachers, international peers, cultural organizations and communities where the target language is spoken. Scholarship recipients study diverse options such as Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Koren, Persian, Russian or Turkish.
Although the program was virtual this year, Hurlbert said it was still an amazing experience. For three hours each day for the six weeks, she said she really enjoyed the interaction with her small cohort of others around the country all studying Chinese.
“I was the only student from the West Coast,” said Hurlbert. “I made several new friends and really enjoyed the group projects.”
Hurlbert said she plans to stay in contact with several from her cohort, as well as apply for the program again this year. Her intention is to apply for both the summer program and a year-long study abroad program also sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
“My hope is to travel and be able to live somewhere overseas,” said Hurlbert. “Those opportunities provide even better interaction and really improve language skills.”
In addition to advancing her language skills this past summer, Hurlbert said she also increased skills in other areas. Hurlbert said she participated in culturally-based courses facilitated by a Chinese national who taught the group how the language has impacted their culture. She said the group project about culture was really impactful.
“My group chose to study and present the intersections between Taoism and Chinese Medicine – specifically about Acupuncture,” said Hurlbert. “We found Chinese medicine very interesting and learned how it’s all connected.”
Those that have worked with Hurlbert are impressed with her enthusiasm for this type of work.
Rebecca Bernman of NSLI-Y said she was selected from 2500 applicants from across the United States and who are reviewed by trained evaluators who assess the applicants’ motivation for language learning, sense of character and demonstrated cultural awareness.
“Maturity and readiness for a challenging academic and international experience are very important factors,” said Berman.
SCVi staff concur with Berman’s assessment of Hurlbert’s skills and motivation. SCVi Academic/College/IB Counselor Kris Nilsen said that she has been impressed with Hurlbert’s interest and perseverance in going after these types of opportunities.
“She has a definite passion for languages,” said Nilsen. “I think she will continue with her language studies and eventually study abroad.”
SCVi Innovations Guide and Upper School Advisory Council Member Jessica Harrison concurred with Nilsen. She said that Hurlbert has always been passionate and dedicated to study of languages and diverse cultures.
“A large part of the reason why she is in Innovations is so that we could make sure she was able to pursue her languages,” said Harrison. “It’s been a joy to be part of her journey and I can’t wait to see what she does next!”
Hurlbert said she has really enjoyed her time at SCVI and thanks mentors such as Harrison. She said she is continuing her Mandarin studies this year at College of the Canyons while she focuses on her next steps after high school. She is interested in her continued language studies, but has strong interests in the sciences as well.
“I’m looking at studying in Australia and would love to study abroad in Japan or China at some point as well,” she said.
Hurlbert said she would definitely recommend this program to her fellow SCVi and ILEAD learners.
“It’s demanding, but worthwhile,” she said. “Despite it being virtual only, I really enjoyed the experience and learned many new ways to practice my language skills.”
After program completion, NSLI-Y participants are eligible to join International Exchange Alumni and the NSLI-Y Alumni Association and participate in alumni activities focused on networking, professional development, continued language and cultural learning, and community service. Many NSLI-Y alumni go on to pursue education and careers vital to U.S. national security and credit the program experience with helping them improve their academic, leadership, and cross-cultural communication skills. You can see information about alumni achievements here, as well as key findings from a 2018 Alumni Impact Report here.
You can find out more information about these programs at NSLI For Youth. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State provides study abroad opportunities for over 1,000 American high school students and approximately 3,000 international high school students each year. Visit High School Study Abroad to learn more.