I've already written about this quite a bit on my other social media, so I'll try to just go over the basics.
So I'm not usually one to type all crazily with tons of caps and exclamation points, but there are few other ways to accurately articulate the level of excitement that I feel about this subject.
I'M A FINALIST FOR THE CRITICAL LANGUAGE SCHOLARSHIP AND I'M GOING TO STUDY TURKISH FOR TWO MONTHS THIS SUMMER IN AZERBAIJAN AHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, now that's over.
A few weeks ago, when I was in St Louis visiting my family over my spring break, I was safely ensconced in a delightful little corner of existence known as Left Bank Books, a bookstore in my family's Central West End neighborhood ruled by a fluffy black bookstore cat, browsing contentedly after having gotten a massage and lunch with my mom that morning.
Having known that I was a semifinalist since late January, by then I had begun to reach the stage of decision processes like this where I was super stressed about it, on edge, checking my phone constantly, convinced that every solitary single buzz of my phone might be the notification of that one email that would make or break me.
And as I stood in the basement floor of Left Bank, clutching a discounted old phrasebook that I had selected to gift a friend, it came.
It finally came.
As I saw the subject line, my breath stopped, my heart started pounding wildly, and for a few moments I could hear and sense nothing else around me. I remember just being cognicent enough to register the words, "congratulations, you have been selected..."
And it was all I could do to hold back a wild scream of cathartic joy and triumph.
I immediately proceeded to call up all my friends and email all my professors who had been privy to or invested in my selection process in some way, and notify them of my big news.
Thankfully, my two closest friends who also applied, Gianna for Azerbaijani and Paula for Korean, got in as well. I'm so delighted and blessed to be embarking on an incredible, monumental, and life-changing adventure, along with two of my closest friends on this planet.
I will be studying Turkish for two months in Baku, Azerbaijan, this summer, from June 11 to August 14.
Due to the unfortunate security situation in Turkey, the CLS programs have been moved to Baku since 2016. This is due particularly to the fact that Azerbaijani has a level of about 90% mutual intelligibility with Turkish, and is often debated to be a Turkish dialect, as well as the fact that many people in Azerbaijan, particularly in and around Baku as its capital, can speak Turkish proficiently.
I'm going to be studying with the other Turkish participants at the Azerbaijan University of Languages, and living with a local host family in Baku, at least some of which will be proficient in Turkish. Though they will technically be in a different program and taking different classes, the CLSers who will be studying Azerbaijani will also be in Baku with us at the same time, and therefore I look forward to being together with even more Turkic language aficionados, among which Gianna as one of my closest and most cherished friends who I've known since the experience which gave me my fierce love of the Turkish language to begin with.
I remember that when I first learned of the switch in program locations, I was admittedly skeptical at first. How can there be a Turkish program somewhere that's not TURKEY? I wondered. After talking to some of last year's participants, I learned of how rewarding and informative their experiences still were, and that reaffirmed my desire to participate in a CLS program.
How far I've come.
Now I look forward to few things more than this incredible possibility to deepen my fluency in one of the languages I love most, in a fascinating new country to boot.
I miss Turkey deeply, every single day of my life, and intend to go back at the earliest opportunity. But I look forward to revitalizing and increasing my fluency of its beautiful language, in an incredible new country to boot, which has historically been something of a sister language and culture to it.
I honestly can think of few words to accurately articulate my overwhelming gratitude and joy. CLS, as a prestigious program well-known as an esteemed college-level continuation to the NSLI-Y program (which brought me to Turkey the first time) has been a goal for me since high school, a distant and tantalizing dream, and now I'M DOING IT.
I will hopefully be back soon with more logistical and concrete information as it comes in from the program itself. But for now, a giant and sincere thank you from the very bottom of my heart to the Critical Language Scholarship, to the State Department, and American taxpayers for allowing me to live out yet another of my many dreams.
Here I come, Azerbaijan. See you soon.