Elsa Burger, SF State awardee of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study in India

Friday, June 17, 2016 - 15:28
Elsa Burger Critical Language Scholarship ricipient

Q & A with Elsa Burger, SF State awardee of U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study a critical language during the summer of 2016.

Elsa Burger, attending the Master of Social Work at SF State is taking this opportunity to travel and stay in Jaipur, India to study and speak Hindi for her CLS scholarship. She took time to answer a few questions before she traveled to Washington D.C. for orientation last month and then her trip to Jaipur, India.

Why did you choose to attend SF State?

San Francisco State University has a long tradition of activism and social justice, through both the College of Ethnic Studies and the School of Social Work, which has reputation for matriculating students who will represent the diverse communities around them as social workers. Both my mother and my uncle graduated from SF State, so as a native San Franciscan I knew that SF State was a valuable resource for local people hoping to gain academic or professional credentials.

How does studying Hindi over in Jaipur pertain to your Graduate Social Work?

Many jobs in community based mental health and social service agencies in the Bay Area look for people who are bilingual. Having language skills, even if they are not at native speaker levels, is a plus in the labor market when you will be working directly with people.

I spoke to some researchers from a grassroots organization in Delhi who worked on homeless shelters and public policy, and I am looking into the possibility of returning to Jaipur to help with their data collection project on urban shelters in 2017. This would connect my research interests with my language studies, at a time when there is increased funding from the government in India to expand services to homeless populations. If I have the chance, I'd like to go, and receiving this scholarship helps me get there.

What are you looking forward to when over there?

Jaipur has a new Metro system that I've never seen, and I am looking forward to the food, enthusiastically. I am hoping that my language capacity really improves from speaking it consistently, at school and with my host family. I am looking forward to visiting some cities I've never been to, like Lucknow.

How was the SF State Fellowships/Scholarships office helpful to you in applying for and receiving the CLS Scholarship?

Dr. Viveros gave me very clear feedback on my ideas for my statements of purpose, which was helpful and really improved my essays. She was a great source of support during the process, and I frequently checked in with her during the time I was assembling my application materials, and while waiting to hear back about the results.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I really enjoyed my internship this year working with homeless Veterans, and when I return to San Francisco I want to send out job applications to agencies that work with Vets, in addition to some other places that look interesting. I'm looking forward to reading books to enjoy them, rather than to absorb them. I went right into the SF State Master of Social Work program after completing my Bachelor of Social Work here, before that I was at CCSF taking prerequisite courses for a few semesters. I plan to slow down the pace after graduation, and let this all sink in.


The Critical Language Scholarship Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages is one of approximately 560 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who received a CLS scholarship in 2016. Selected finalists hail from 48 states and the District of Columbia, and represent more than 200 institutions of higher education from across the United States, including public and private universities, liberal arts colleges, minority-serving institutions, and community colleges. Each CLS participant will spend eight to ten weeks in one of 24 locations studying Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, or Urdu.

Over the past ten years, the CLS Program has sent over 5,000 American undergraduate and graduate students overseas to learn critical languages all over the world. It provides fully-funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences. CLS Program participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

The CLS Program actively recruits in states and regions of the United States that have been historically under-represented in international education and encourages students from diverse backgrounds and academic majors to apply. The CLS Program also promotes diversity in the independent review process, drawing readers and panelists from a wide variety of institutions across the United States, including public and private universities, liberal arts colleges, minority-serving institutions and community colleges. In the 2015-16 evaluation season, over 377 professionals representing 44 states and the District of Columbia, and 212 institutions participated in the selection process for the CLS Program.

CLS Program participants are among the more than 50,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. These exchange programs build relations and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The CLS Program is administered by American Councils for International Education.

For further information about the CLS Program or other exchange programs offered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, please contact ECA-Press@state.gov and visit our websites at http://www.clscholarship.org and https://studyabroad.state.gov/.