Echo Thomas

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Echo Thomas
2017 Critical Language
Scholarship - Korean language learning in South Korea

Echo Thomas, originally from Seminole, Florida, is a proud recipient of the 2017 Critical Language Scholarship. The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) is an eight-week intensive language program funded by the U.S. Department of State and is supported by the American Councils for International Education. CLS is a fully paid scholarship given to students seeking to increase or begin their proficiency in 14 different, critical languages including Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, and others.

In the Summer of 2015 and 2017, Echo was given the incredible opportunity to learn Korean in Gwangju, South Korea. Her work during CLS included attending classes 4 hours a day, as well as participating in culture classes, cultural excursions, and spending time with her host family and language partner. The most exciting part was required adherence to the language policy, which means all communication was exclusively in Korean language.

During the application process, she worked closely with ONS. "I feel overwhelmingly grateful for the Office of National Scholarships, which was with me 100% of the way," she says. "From explaining deadlines to giving advice, ONS gave me the confidence and encouragement I needed to excel in CLS. They even provided writing workshops to help improve and strengthen my application essays, and gave me useful feedback. I couldn't have succeeded without the Office of National Scholarships, and I feel eternally grateful for all the help and support they provided me."

Echo is confident this award has enriched her academic and professional experience. "As an International Studies major focusing on East Asia and North Korea, the Critical Language Scholarship gave me the opportunity to explore my studies even further," she says. "I believe that the experiences and skills I learned during CLS not only contributed to my academic success as USF, but will provide me the tools necessary for graduate school and living abroad."

She encourages students who consider applying for CLS to go for it. "If you are even mildly considering applying, do it! As we say in Korean: 시작이 반이다 (sijag-i ban-ida), which translates to  'starting is half the job'," Echo says.

In the future, Echo plans to complete a PhD in political science, specifically focusing on sustainable solutions to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Congratulations to Echo on winning the 2017 Critical Language Scholarship!

Interested in the Critical Language Scholarship? Please contact Ms. Lauren Roberts: