Marshall sophomore wins Critical Language Scholarship, study abroad to Japan


Photo submitted by Christian Thompson

Christian Thompson in a Japanese Sado club tea house during his trip overseas in high school.

A second-year student will embark on the trip of a lifetime in the fall for a year-long study abroad in Japan after becoming the fifth Marshall attendee to receive the Critical Language Scholarship, or CLS.

Christian Thompson, a double major in international business and Japanese, said he will travel overseas to learn more about the language of his choice and the experiences that come with it.

“The Critical Language Scholarship appears to be based on several factors like opportunity, your accomplishments and connection to your future career,” Thompson said. “The best part about it is that you get to travel to your country of choice and study at a language school while also having many cultural experiences, all expenses paid.”

The CLS Program is funded by the federal government in an effort to increase the number of Americans learning and studying the fourteen foreign languages considered critical.

Some of these languages, such as Japanese, require at least 2 years of previous experience in order to receive the scholarship, while others require little to no experience.

Thompson said he has been interested in Japanese culture since childhood and has also visited Japan twice.

“It started when I was young, surrounded by very expensive Japanese goods, because my grandfather was the president of a company and traded with Osaka Steel,” Thompson said. “My family influenced me at first, and the old samurai movies and Japanese comedy later became my biggest influence. With my interest in business, came an interest in international business. That combined with my preexisting curiosity of Japanese culture became my main reason for learning Japanese.”

Mallory Carpenter, program manager of national scholarships, said Thompson is Marshall’s first winner of the scholarship for Japanese.

He’s in our Japanese department here, but he taught himself the two years’ worth of Japanese, which is pretty funny since that’s the only language on the list offered here,” Carpenter said. “Languages like Japanese, they have more of a threshold. You need to have a certain level of experience, and they do test you if you win the scholarship.

Carpenter said the program attracts many students in international affairs and other majors where international experience could be helpful to their careers.

“You have to think about what you want to do, what’s your career, what kind of goals do you have for your career,” Carpenter said. “If you want to do anything on the international level, having one of these critical languages is a huge bonus.”

The deadline for the Critical Language Scholarship is typically in November, and Carpenter said students interested should plan to start working on applications as early as September.

Hanna Pennington can be contacted at [email protected].