W&J Junior Earns Prestigious Award from U.S. Department of State

Written: May 26, 2020
Last Updated: May 27, 2020

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Clara Sherwood '22 poses for a photo in Morocco during her summer 2019 Magellan Project.

WASHINGTON, PA (May 26, 2020)—Clara Sherwood ’22 is ready to take on the world.

The International Studies and Spanish major came to Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) with dreams to travel the world and chose the W&J based on its reputation for providing high-quality, internationally oriented educational opportunities.

“The most attractive aspect of W&J was the Magellan Project, which allowed me to travel to Morocco and Spain last summer to study migration between their multicultural societies,” Clara said.

This year, she planned to up the ante. She applied for and was awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), a highly-competitive program that sends U.S. college students across the globe for an immersive summer language study. Clara is the first W&J student to earn this honor, and she planned to use the opportunity to study Arabic in Meknes, Morocco this summer.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made completing her experience impossible this summer, and the Department of State notified all of the 2020 CLS winners that they will have to apply again next year if they still wish to be a part of the program.

The award is still a major accomplishment and Clara said sharing her W&J-supported Magellan experience was a key component to her application, which required her to write several essays about her interest in intensive language acquisition, and how she’s adapted to unfamiliar situations and shown resilience in her past experiences.

“I believe that [my Magellan Project] is what made my application unique and proved to the CLS committee that I really was dedicated to learning Arabic since I had already pursued an experience abroad in an Arabic-speaking country,” Clara said. “Additionally, W&J has a great support system for students pursuing opportunities about which they are passionate. Dr. Misawa, Dr. Dodge and Dr. Ternes really encouraged me to pursue the CLS because of my love for learning languages and interest in the Middle East. Dr. Vdovichenko was especially helpful by assisting me with polishing my essays to fit the prompts.”

Clara hopes to continue studying international relations beyond W&J, participate in the Fulbright Scholar Program or Peace Corps, and pursue a career with the State Department. She’s planning for more international travel as a student, too.

“When I first found out I had been selected [for CLS], I was living in one of those surreal moments where I felt like all of my ambitions were validated,” she said. “While I was initially disappointed [when my plans were altered] I’m optimistic about the potential of a virtual institute offered this summer and the chance to use my language skills this coming January when I can hopefully go abroad to Jordan and the United Arab Emirates for another Magellan Project.”

About Washington & Jefferson College 

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY. 

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