UA Student Receives Critical Language Scholarship to Study Mandarin

From UA News | March 11th, 2022

Ben Borja, an international studies and political science double major, has received a Critical Language Scholarship to study Mandarin through an online program based in Dalian, China, this summer.

A headshot of Ben Borja while traveling abroad
Ben Borja

Borja, who is minoring in Chinese and leadership communication, is an Honors College student from Cincinnati, Ohio. He has previously studied in Shanghai, China; London, England; and is currently finishing his last semester of undergraduate study in Rome, Italy. Borja plans to use the program to improve his proficiency in Mandarin and continue that improvement by pursuing graduate school opportunities in Taiwan, ultimately building toward a career in diplomacy or public policymaking.

Borja has been the recipient of the Dean’s Award of Merit from the College of Arts and Sciences, McAdam’s Award from the department of political science and an Education Abroad Grant.

In addition, two students were selected as alternates. Karen Fetsch, of Auburn, is an alternate to study Swahili, and Nick Hayes, of Memphis, Tennessee, is an alternate to study Swahili.

The Critical Language Scholarship program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is part of a wider government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. CLS plays an important role in preparing students for the 21st century’s globalized workforce and increasing national competitiveness.

The program provides scholarships to U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to spend eight to 10 weeks studying one of 15 critical languages: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish or Urdu.

The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future careers.

Students interested in Critical Language Scholarships and other education abroad opportunities can contact the Capstone International Center at for more information.

Bryant Welbourne, UA Strategic Communications,

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.