Adwaith Hariharan, a rising junior attending Biotechnology High School under the governance of the Monmouth County Vocational School District, has received the nationally competitive National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholarship for immersive, critical language study this summer to study the Arabic language for six weeks.
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 created as an online alternative to the NSLI-Y overseas immersion program in response to the U.S. Department of State Global Level 4 Health Advisory and ECA’s pause of in-person exchange programs.
Hariharan, competitively selected from approximately 2,500 applicants from across the United States, is one of approximately 500 students who will study Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Russian, or Turkish this summer as part of the virtual exchange.
Originally intended as an overseas immersion program to promote critical language learning among American youth, NSLI-Y would have had Hariharan travel to Morocco to stay with a host family, study Arabic for a couple hours a day at a local school or university and integrate cultural activities during his stay. Instead, the online alternative was developed in response to global COVID-19 restrictions. The NSLI-Y Virtual Summer Intensive program aims to provide robust language and cultural learning opportunities by virtually connecting the participants with teachers, international peers, cultural organizations, and communities where the target language is spoken.
“I pursued the opportunity to study Arabic with the NSLI-Y program because I want to develop my language acquisition skills, gain appropriate cultural understanding, and learn Arabic for use in our globalized society “, said Hariharan, a Manalapan resident. “I volunteer as an English tutor for recently migrated Syrian refugee students to the United States. Our conversations are filled with Google translate misfires, hilarious and frustrating miscommunications and cultural faux pas. This motivated me to apply to NSLI-Y as it presents a unique opportunity to study critical languages and their corresponding cultures. I strongly believe that language is the road map of a culture that unlocks different perspectives. My aspirations to pursue a career in Global Public Health has led me to appreciate the need to understand other languages and cultures in order to develop skills to thrive as a global citizen by understanding and promoting beneficial global relations.”
NSLI-Y is part of a multi-agency U.S. Government initiative launched in 2006 to improve Americans’ ability to communicate in select critical languages, advance international dialogue, and provide Americans with jobs skills for the global economy. 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.
Adwaith plans to continue his Arabic studies through online classes, NSLI-Y’s class website and keeping up with classmates. He plans to continue his collaboration with Interfaith-RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Services & Empowerment) to help with the Arab immigrants in Central NJ.
The goals of the program include sparking a life-long interest in foreign languages and cultures, and developing a corps of young Americans with the skills necessary to advance international dialogue in the private, academic or government sectors, and build upon the foundations developed through person-to-person relationships while abroad.
Through his participation in the program, Adwaith will serve as a citizen diplomat while developing the skills necessary to be a leader in the global community.
NSLI-Y is administered by American Councils for International Education in cooperation with AFS-USA, American Cultural Exchange Service, AMIDEAST, iEARN-USA, the Russian American Foundation, Stony Brook University, the University of Delaware, and the University of Wisconsin.
Applications for 2022-23 NSLI-Y programs are expected to be available in the late summer. The U.S. Department of State conducts study abroad programs for over 1,000 American high school students and approximately 3,000 foreign high school students each year.