How To Get The U.S. Government To Pay For Your Study Abroad

Advice on earning government sponsored study abroad scholarships

White House Government Study Abroad ScholarshipsJust about every student is looking for a little financial aid when it comes to studying abroad, and what better help that a government funded study abroad scholarship? While there’s still some definite competition, the number and availability of scholarships like those I’ve listed below is steadily increasing with the U.S. Governments push to have more students studying critical languages and cultures that are critical to U.S. interests but underrepresented in study abroad. So if you’re looking to do some not-so-traditional study abroad, here are 5 ways you can earn a government study abroad scholarship.

Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program

If your dream has always been to study Italian in Rome or French in Paris, this one might not be for you. Launched in 2006, the Critical Language Scholarship Program was an effort by the U.S. Government to increase the number of Americans studying languages which will be critical in future foreign relations.

Unlike other programs which provide funding for a full semester or year abroad, the CLS Program currently only offers intensive summer language institutes (which could be a big positive for those looking for short-term study abroad programs). While in 2006 scholarships were only offered for a total of 6 languages, that number has now increased to 13, which include:

  • Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Turkish, and Urdu: Beginning, advanced beginning, intermediate and advanced levels;
  • Arabic and Persian: Advanced beginning, intermediate and advanced levels;
  • Chinese, Japanese, and Russian: Intermediate and advanced levels.

The CLS Program is open to undergraduate, master’s and doctoral-level students, and all disciplines and majors are encouraged to apply. For those students who are still in high school but are anxious to go abroad, check out the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program, which a previous TSAB Guest Blogger took part in while studying in China.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. It’s probably the most popular scholarship exchange program on this list, but it’s also extremely competitive.

Fellowships are offered to U.S. graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study and/or conduct research. As a nice little bonus, Critical Language Enhancement Awards are available for study of critical need foreign languages before or during the exchange period.

While the fact that it’s research based is what turned me off to the Fulbright, the subject of the research can be almost anything, and research doesn’t have to mean sitting in a foreign library scouring through old textbooks books for an entire year. While I was studying at CET, one of the people in my program was actually studying Chinese so he could then go research the art of Chinese glass-blowing – that’s one Fulbright I wouldn’t have minded doing.

The program operates in over 155 countries, and if you’re looking for something other than study/research, the Fulbright also offers the English Teaching Assistant Program and the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship.

Boren Scholarships

Boren Scholarships provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. While not as strictly language-oriented as the CLS Program, the Boren is also a great option for students interested in studying less commonly taught languages like Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Swahili.

The program focuses on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security, but the definition of “national security” is pretty broad and includes not only the usual concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, but also things like sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness.

The Boren differs from most other scholarships with it’s NSEP Service Requirement for Boren Scholars. It basically means that within 3 years of graduating, you’re required to work for 1 year in the Federal Government in a position with national security responsibilities. That deal looks pretty sweet from where I’m sitting – government funded study abroad and guaranteed (and stable) government employment.

The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals

This is definitely the black sheep of the group, as it doesn’t involve studying a language or culture critical to U.S. foreign relations or national security. The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, funded by the German Bundestag and U.S. Congress through the U.S. Department of State, provides young professionals with a strong interest in cultural exchange with the opportunity to study, work, and live with a host in Germany.

The CBYE offers two months of intensive German language training in Germany (no prior German language knowledge required), four months of classroom instruction at a German university or college of applied sciences, and a five-month internship in your chosen career field. It may not be a critical language, but I definitely wouldn’t mind a scholarship to learn German in Berlin.

The program is primarily designed for business, engineering, technical, vocational, and agricultural fields, but applicants from all fields can apply. Because of the internship portion, it’s also a good idea to have some idea about career goals and relevant work experience in that field.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program

And last but not least, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program which provides scholarships to U.S. undergraduates with financial need for study abroad, including students from diverse backgrounds. and students going to non-traditional study abroad destinations. Gilman Scholarships provide up to $5,000 for American students going to non-traditional study abroad destinations with programs lasting any where from 1 Month to 1 Year.

Not to be left out, students studying critical need languages are eligible for an extra $3,000 in funding as part of the Gilman Critical Need Language Supplement program. Those critical need languages include:

  • Arabic (all dialects);
  • Chinese (all dialects);
  • Bahasa Indonesia
  • Japanese
  • Turkic (Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Kyrgz, Turkish, Turkmen, Uzbek);
  • Persian (Farsi, Dari, Kurdish, Pashto, Tajiki);
  • Indic (Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, Sinhala, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Sindhi);
  • Korean
  • Russian
  • Swahili

This post was brought to you by ESL Languages

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