Lizzie Edwards: World Explorer


Clarion photo Ashley Lytle

By Ashley Lytle, Editor-in-Chief

Senior Lizzie Edwards is venturing to Rabat, Morocco for a six-week homestay this summer. The best part: the entire trip is paid for.

After going through a rigorous application process, Edwards was awarded a full ride scholarship to study Arabic overseas by the National Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), which is sponsored by the U.S. state department.

The process begins with an approximately 20-page application that includes three essays. During the application process, the student applies for a specific language to study and he or she states whether they’d like to experience a summer program or a year-long program. From there, students were chosen to be interviewed by two individuals whose goal was to develop an understanding as to how the student would react in different situations. After the interview, individuals who did well had their original application reevaluated before the organization decided to award a scholarship. Edwards is grateful to Cleveland teacher Matt Sten who took the time to write her a letter of recommendation that accompanied her application.

“NSLI-Y is part of a U.S. government initiative that prepares American citizens to be leaders in a global world. Now more than ever, it is important that Americans have the necessary linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to promote international dialogue and support American engagement abroad,” stated the NSLI-Y website. The program is only for high school students.

“[Arabic is] something I’ve always been interested in. It’s a beautiful language … Also, right now in the current political scheme, a lot of people associate hate with the language. There’s a lot of fear that surrounds the language itself and the culture that comes along with it. I think it’s more important than ever that as many people as possible try to learn Arabic so it can create understanding between different people and different countries at a time where a lot of things are not that great,” explained Edwards.

Edwards mentioned reading an article about someone being kicked off a plane for speaking Arabic. “It’s instances like these that highlight the importance of learning languages,” said Edwards.

Edwards will leave for the capital of Morocco in June along with 11 other U.S. high school students who were awarded the scholarship: two seniors, seven juniors, and two sophomores. Since being accepted to the program, the students have been keeping in touch over a Facebook group. About the rest of her group, Edwards said, “Everyone seems really cool. They’re from all over the U.S.”

NSLI-Y awards students the scholarship and then connects them with another organization. For Edwards, that organization is Amideast. There are two other organizations used for students who are awarded an NSLI-Y scholarship who will travel to Morocco: I-Learn and Legacy.

In Morocco, students will be assigned in pairs to a host family. “It will be really interesting since I know barely any Arabic and we will be staying with a homestay family that really don’t speak English. But I’m excited,” expressed Edwards.

Edwards and the other students are expected to know the Arabic alphabet and other basic words before the trip. Stated Edwards, “The Arabic alphabet is interesting because it has different forms for the different places in the alphabet and they look different for each one. Right now, it’s a lot of worksheets and working together with the group I’ll be going with.”

During their six week stay, students will take “extensive” language classes, Edwards explained. In the afternoons, they will participate in a variety of activities, such as participating in community service and hanging out with their host families.

Edwards expressed concern that Trump’s budget would cause this program to be cut in the future. “It’s important that this program exists because it helps promote understanding between different cultures. It’s a diplomatic action also. It benefits both countries involved. First, it widens the horizons of Americans, who are as a nationality, internationally known as being narrow-minded. Second, it promotes Americans to learn critical languages that are not usually taught in school. Three, it helps provide an opportunity for people in the host country and NSLI-Y to create deep connections,” said Edwards. “NSLI-Y is a program that empowers the youth and fosters empathy.”

Next year, Edwards plans to attend Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT to study international relations. She’s considering going into public health or something in diplomatic relations. “I’m really interested in public health. I’m not interested necessarily in the science part of it but in how diseases affect human populations and how environmental factors really interact with humans. I’m really interested in focusing on the human part of [public health], worldwide rather than just the U.S.,” she explained. “The diplomatic route would be really interesting … We need to be able to communicate with other countries to be able to succeed in the future. I feel like that is something our government has kind of failed in in the past.”

Overall, Edwards is excited for the trip this summer. She expressed encouragement for other students interested in the program stating, “I would say definitely apply. You never know until you apply, and it’s an awesome opportunity. It’s a full scholarship to study abroad. The application doesn’t take that long.”