Two University of Richmond juniors, Simrun Bal and Andrew Lyell, received U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarships and participated in intensive summer study abroad programs to enhance their language skills.

Bal, of Springfield, Va., chose India to continue studying the Punjabi language.  She found that “the CLS Punjabi program has provided me with a strong bridge” for her interests in medical studies, global health and learning new languages. Bal said the program “helped me further realize that one of the most important aspects of working in the medical community is the ability to communicate successfully with diverse populations — not only through language, but also through cultural awareness and reflection.”

Lyell, of Chantilly, Va., a two-time recipient of the scholarship, hopes to become a doctor in less-developed nations. Returning to Bangladesh as a second-year Bengali language student, Lyell said he “talked about life to rickshaw drivers, barbers, tea shop owners and slum dwellers.”  Lyell also spent a day at a research hospital’s ICU and shadowed a doctor for a week after the program ended.

The State Department created the CLS program to increase opportunities for students to enhance their skills in certain languages deemed important to international relations.  Bal and Lyell were among 575 students selected for the 2011 program, out of nearly 5,200 applicants.

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School of Arts and Sciences