For the first time in Grand Valley State University history, a GVSU alumna is the recipient of a U.S. Department of State critical language scholarship.
"I cannot put into words how amazing and happy I am about receiving the U.S. Department of State critical language scholarship," said Sandra Braden, the 22-year-old alum who was selected from more than 5,200 applicants nationally. "It was a challenge and I only hoped I made it through the first rounds, and to actually receive it is great. "
Issued by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the U.S. Department of State critical language scholarship is part of a wider U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical-need languages with the aim of promoting mutual understanding internationally.
Braden is among the 575 graduate and undergraduates to receive the critical language scholarship. Born in Cairo, Egypt, Braden graduated from GVSU in April with a major in international relations and a minor in Middle Eastern studies.
During her time at GVSU, Braden was involved in the Arab Culture Club for three years, before serving as president for the fourth. She spent a summer studying abroad on Jordan, and was involved with the Model Arab League for three years, participating in GVSU's regionals and later nationals in Washington D.C. To top it all off, Braden spent the rest of her time in the Student Services building as well as DeVos Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence as a student worker.
After attending orientation in Washington D.C. with the other recipients, Braden will spend her scholarship in Oman, taking intensive Arabic courses that pack a years' worth of education into two short months.
"There will be a modern standard Arabic course, an Omani colloquial course, meeting with Omani peer facilitators, having a media class, group films, lectures and projects, and trips to gain a better understanding of the Arabic language and also the culture and people to bridge them with the U.S. and our work together."
Braden says time spent in Arabic classes and prior study abroad programs at GVSU has prepared her for the long hours ahead.
"My prior study abroad trip was faculty led with my Arabic professor and 11 other students," Braden said. "That firsthand experience in the Middle East with the people, culture, and classes was great. Also, taking all the Arabic courses available really was wonderful. I had exposure to a couple great professors and wonderful and varied classes like media, colloquial, cultural and other Arabic classes."
Braden said she is looking forward to expanding her already extensive Arabic knowledge as well as networking and having new mentors.
She said to have several worldly professors at the World Learning Center in Muscat is "a dream" – and not her only one.
"My dream would be that this scholarship would help pave way for a job abroad in the Middle East or here in D.C.," Braden said.