Zubair Ali smiles

Zubair Ali

Zubair Ali ‘24 (religion and politics)

Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State

The Critical Language Scholarship provides American students the access and opportunity to start their language learning journeys even when these critical languages may not be offered on their campuses or when they may have responsibilities that limit their ability to go overseas.

What prompted me to apply: Working as an EXCEL Scholar with Prof. Hafsa Kanjwal was the reason that I applied. Prof. Kanjwal herself had completed this program and told me that in order to get a good command over Urdu, this program would be a necessary step. It would also help me in my future, in which I plan on working closely in or with South Asia, South Asian history or issues etc. 

What the program entails: The scholarship will be about 10 weeks—from June 12-August 10—at the American Institute of Indian Studies at Lucknow, in Lucknow, India. I will be studying Urdu, a language native to India and Pakistan. It will consist of complete language immersion—20 hours a week of Urdu class, learning how to read, write, speak, and understand Urdu. This will also be accompanied with travel and cultural excursions locally throughout India.

How Lafayette prepared me for this experience: Lafayette has prepared me tolerant how interact with different types of people with different interests. In addition, my experience as an EXCEL scholar dealing with a South Asian topic has given me a necessary context to the program. A large part of the classroom material will be discussion-based and on participation, which is a common theme amongst many of the classes I have taken here at Lafayette. 

How I expect this to benefit me: I hope to gain a greater command over Urdu, in particular learning how to read and write since I never had the opportunity to learn, despite being a heritage speaker. I also hope to enhance my vocabulary in Urdu and gain a greater cultural awareness of India. Having only been to my home city of Hyderabad, I hope to learn more about Lucknow and its culture and look forward to the new experience of being in a new city. 

I hope to become an attorney, or work somewhere with international law. I am very passionate about activism, in particular, talking about the history and status of Indian Muslims, being one myself. I hope to use the experience to learn Urdu so that I may continue my activism more effectively by being able to directly communicate with Indian Muslim communities, and also hope to start or work for organizations that directly work from India. Another path is looking at being a diplomat/ambassador to India, and having a command in Urdu would help immensely.

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