Elise Wallis Earns Coveted State Dept. Scholarship


Baldwin Wallace University senior, Elise Wallis, earned a place in the highly coveted US State Department Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, allowing her to study Arabic in Tunisia over this past summer.
“The CLS Program provides fully-funded intensive language instruction for U.S. citizen undergraduate, Master’s, and Ph.D. students. The language instruction takes place in oversea summer language institutes in 13 critically needed foreign languages,” Wallis said.
Wallis, an International Studies major at BW, will be among the first of BW’s students to graduate with the new national security track minor. Last year, the International Studies major and minor at Baldwin Wallace University were redesigned to allow students to choose from two minors: International Affairs or National Security.
“The National Security track provides a foundation for assessing global and domestic security threats and related issues associated with governance, war, health, and the environment. [It] is really beneficial for students who want an interdisciplinary education and an understanding of evolving security issues in our increasingly interconnected world,” Wallis said.
Wallis has studied Arabic for the last two years at BW and she knew that the program would be a great opportunity to “experience life in a country that was significantly different than the U.S. in terms of language, religion, and culture.”
Wallis was located in Northern Tunisia in a town called Sidu Bou where she studied at the Center for Maghrib Studies in Tunis (CEMAT). Wallis studied Modern Standard Arabic and Tunisian Arabic with 42 other American students.
Wallis was aware of the intensity of the language classes and had some reservations as to whether she would be able to meet the program’s demand, though once she arrived she realized she had nothing to worry about and was immediately surprised by the generosity and hospitality of Tunisians. “My host family and Tunisian teachers were very friendly and consistently went out of their way to help me in any way they could,” Wallis said.
Wallis spent eights weeks abroad and hopes to return some day. One of the highlights of her stay was going to her host uncle’s wedding and having a conversation with a seven-year-old girl entirely in Tunisian Arabic, as it made her realize how far she had come along in the local dialect after only being there for a few weeks.
Every two weeks Wallis and the rest of the institute would go on a weekend trip to several major cities such as Kairouan, Dougga, and Tabarka. She also got the opportunity to visit the Great Mosque of Kairouan, several Roman ruins and some beautiful beaches.
Wallis’s advice for students wishing to pursue a critical language and interested in applying to the CLS program is to “study your respective language every single day and make an effort to immerse yourself in the language through listening to different media sources like television and radio.”