by Taylor Bryant and Joy Esiemokhai
Brittany Groves, a University of West Georgia Advanced Academy scholar, won the prestigious National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship this summer to study abroad in Korea. Groves, a Decatur, Georgia high school student, was one of only 625 students chosen by the U.S. State Department for the all-expenses paid scholarship which allowed her to study Korean first-hand in South Korea.
The NSLI-Y program is an annual merit-based scholarship that allows deserving high school students to learn less commonly taught languages in the native country where the language is spoken. The awardees experience a full immersion for the duration of their stay, including staying with a host family and studying the language at a local university.
“It feels like a blessing and the greatest opportunity I could have had to explore my interests,” says Brittany. “I stayed with a host family in Seoul and took Korean classes at Sogang University. I was especially excited about staying with my host family since it meant a first-hand learning experience of the Korean language and culture. Getting to know them and having them include me as part of their family was a priceless experience.”
Brittany’s interest in Korean stems from a direct experience of the language as a result of having a Korean uncle. “The language is just so beautiful. My uncle and aunt are teaching my four-year-old cousin and it’d be nice to communicate with her that way.”
Her interest in Korean has also inspired her career choice. “I’m planning to major in International Relations and hopefully earn a South Korean Government Scholarship which would enable me to study for my master’s at a Korean university,” she says.
Learning the language was not easy but that did not discourage Brittany. “I don’t believe that languages can be 'mastered' if you’re not a native speaker. Learning Korean was work. I did learn to speak, read and write basic Korean. I just want to get better at the language as a whole and I think I still have a very long way to go.”
The NSLI-Y scholarship was launched in 2006 as a U.S. government initiative aimed at increasing Americans’ capacity to communicate with speakers of various critical languages through formal instruction and informal language practice in an immersion environment. The goals of the program include sparking a life-long interest in foreign languages and cultures, and fostering skills necessary to advance international dialogue in various sectors.