A TROY psychology major has been awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Korean in South Korea this summer.
Claire Humphreys will attend an 8-week intensive language and cultural immersion program in Gwangju, South Korea, from June until August, with all travel, tuition and housing expenses, along with a living stipend paid for by the scholarship.
According to Humphreys, “the scholarship allows American students to learn and become proficient in a foreign language which the US feels is critical to national security and economic relations.”
Humphreys said Younghee Kent, an adjunct professor of modern languages and classics, encouraged her to apply for the scholarship.
“My freshman year, I met Professor Kent at a Study Abroad fair offered at Troy where she first introduced me to the possibilities of studying abroad while learning Korean,” she said. “After meeting Professor Kent, I registered for her Korean 1101 class for the next semester. Because Troy only offers two semesters of Korean language classes, I have been diligent to engage in outside learning to enhance my knowledge of the Korean language.”
The application process was time-intensive, Humphreys said.
“The application included several forms regarding my personal and academic information, past activities and employment information, prior travel experiences, two letters of recommendation, university transcripts, current academic information, and information about other languages I have studied,” she said. “Additionally, the application required the completion of several essay questions regarding the program and my interest in learning the language, as well as a statement of purpose.”
Humphreys said she has experience travelling and moving because she experienced 11 major moves across eight states by the time she was 15 years old, as her family followed her father’s job in the construction industry.
“These moves taught me how to quickly adapt to new situations; moreover, they built within me a strong sense of resilience and cultivated my curiosity and independence,” Humphreys said. “In each new place that we moved, I wanted to learn more about the people and customs that made my new home unique. As I grew older, this curiosity to know more about different people and places sparked my passion to travel.”
Humphreys said her passion for traveling caused her to seek out volunteer opportunities abroad.
“With each trip I made, my love for learning about different countries, engaging and working with diverse people, and experiencing new cultures ignited,” she said. “Three years ago, I returned from Cambodia where I served as the Learning Center Manager and Sponsorship Specialist at an anti-human trafficking organization that focused on the rescue, aftercare, and reintegration of teenage girls that had been trafficked or sexually exploited.”
Humphreys has also lived and volunteered in Thailand, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Lebanon, working with anti-human trafficking, community development and post-war relief aids. Her time in Costa Rica and Nicaragua helped her learn to speak Spanish, and her time in Cambodia made her proficient in speaking Khmer, the Cambodian language.
“My interest in Korean culture and language began to grow when I lived in Cambodia where it was common to watch Korean shows and news on television, hear Korean music playing at restaurants, and see pictures of Korean celebrities on signs,” she said. “At the time, I taught many teenagers who idolized Korea signers, thus making me learn the music so I could better interact with my students. From this, I began to learn more about South Korea and its fascinating culture.”
She said the more she learned about South Korea, the more she wanted to travel there to experience the culture firsthand.
“In 2015, while returning from a holiday, I extended my layover in South Korea so I could briefly explore Seoul,” Humphreys said. “From this 24-hour expedition, my love for Korean culture and desire to learn the Korean language was ignited.”
Humphreys said she believes her time at Troy University and the CLS program will benefit her tremendously in the future.
“I intend to partner cross-culturally in the field of anti-human trafficking, creating and implementing educational curricula that focus on trauma-informed care practices,” she said. “My goal, once completed with the curricula, is teaching international workshops for teachers who work with trauma victims in aftercare programs.”
She said that, although she has a specific career in mind, the CLS program has opened more opportunities, including a year of non-competitive eligibility for U.S. government jobs and the availability of scholarships to help pay for graduate school.
Humphreys said swimming in every major body of water in the world is on her bucket list.