Claire Anderson has had a love of Middle Eastern studies since she was young. When she wanted to further her study of Arabic, she pursued the Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS). The FLAS fellowship is a one-year, full-tuition fellowship for language students interested in studying Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi and Turkish. Part government-funded and part university-funded, the fellowship covers all tuition and fees, and provides a $15,000 stipend. While on the fellowship, Fellows are required to take a pre and post skills assessment, as well as two semesters of language classes. Claire undertook her FLAS Fellowship to study Arabic at Georgetown University (2011-2012). We caught up with Claire to learn more about her fellowship experience.
1. What inspired you to apply for the FLAS fellowship?
The Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship is offered to both undergraduate and graduate students, specifically for programs that combine modern foreign language training with area/international studies. As a student in the Master of Arts in Arab Studies program at Georgetown University, this fell directly in-line with my goals. The fellowship is for high-achieving students that have demonstrated academic ability specifically in language acquisition, and who would continue such performance for the duration of the fellowship. I decided to apply because I needed a way to fund my graduate education, and the eligibility requirements fit my background. I had been studying Arabic for about four years in various places in the Middle East and in the U.S. prior to joining MAAS. One of my deciding factors for coming to Georgetown was the program requirement to pass an Arabic proficiency exam before you graduate. I knew I would be placing into an Arabic class, which also took care of the FLAS requirement that the fellow be enrolled in language classes for both semesters. It all just kind of felt like serendipity. I applied,and was lucky enough to be one of Georgetown’s eight FLAS fellows for the 2011-2012 academic year.
2. What do you think made your application stand out?
I think my application stood out for several reasons. First of all, I’ve had a lot of varied experiences, such as living in Amman, Jordan for two years, being the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine there, and being awarded scholarships for different language institutions around the city. Furthermore, I have a strong academic record in terms of overall study, and especially in terms of language study, and was supported by fantastic references. Lastly, and probably most importantly, I really write exactly how I talk. I like to tell stories, and so my personal statement really focused on my journey from growing up in a small town in the northwest to devoting my life to the Middle East and Arabic. Instead of talking about all my awards and justifications for being a great applicant, I talked about how I was compared to Carrie Bradshaw while in Amman (more often that I would like to admit) because I have curly blonde hair. I wrote about how incredibly hard it was to figure out a life in a new country where I wasn’t totally fluent in the language. But mostly I expressed that regardless of all that, I had never been happier than when I was in Amman, racing around to language classes, getting hot and dusty hailing cabs, and making a home for myself there. More than anything, I was just incredibly honest, and I think that’s what defined my application.
FLAS Fellowship Personal Statement:
If you’d like to read Claire’s personal statement for her FLAS fellowship, click here.
3. How has the fellowship influenced your career path?
FLAS was a huge influence for me. Without it, I simply could not have afforded to go to Georgetown, to be a part of this incredible program, doing what I love doing – researching, writing, and thinking. It is such an amazing fellowship because it really allows the fellow to have complete control over their academic study, with the exception of one language class per semester. I didn’t have to orient my research on some obscure topic, I didn’t have to realign my interests – I just had to do what I already wanted, which was take more Arabic classes. It gave me the opportunity to start my graduate career, which lead to an academically amazing first year, and now I’m lucky enough to get to return for my second year with full department funding.
Claire Anderson has a Bachelor of Arts in Diplomacy and World Affairs from Occidental College in Los Angeles and is currently pursuing her MAAS degree at Georgetown University on the FLAS Fellowship. She focused her undergraduate studies on Middle Eastern gender issues and Arabic, and has studied Arabic at the University of Jordan and the Qasid Institute in Amman. She has worked with the United Nations in New York City at the Office of the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and as the Editor-in-Chief of a luxury-lifestyle magazine called Aviator. She hopes to live in the Levant region long-term, working with an NGO that focuses on women’s empowerment.
© Victoria Johnson 2012, all rights reserved.