Two UIC students awarded State Dept. scholarships

Two University of Illinois at Chicago students will spend this summer in India and Oman, respectively, while engaged in intensive foreign language studies supported by the U.S. State Department’s Critical Languages Scholarship.

The competitive award will place Neharika Akkoor, of Aurora, Ill., and Bridget Hansen, of McHenry, Ill., in a fully funded 10-week language program with cultural enrichment experiences.

The scholarships are part of the National Security Language Initiative, a U.S. government interagency effort to increase the number of Americans mastering critical-need languages. Recipients are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their language skills in their professional careers.

Neharika Akkoor

Neharika Akkoor. Click image to download

Akkoor, a junior in the UIC Honors College majoring in philosophy, will study beginning Hindi at the American Institute of Indian Studies in Jaipur, India.

She believes Hindi will be useful when interacting with Indian patients during her medical career and in future volunteer work in India.

“It will be easier communicating with them, especially the elderly, who feel more comfortable communicating in their native language,” said Akkoor, who is fluent in three languages.

Akkoor plans to pursue international grants that would provide study abroad opportunities after she earns her bachelor’s degree in May 2015. Under UIC’s Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions in medicine, she will later return to UIC for medical school.

Akkoor has participated in Alternative Spring Break, a student-led service program that sends UIC students to volunteer sites across the country during winter and spring breaks. She says becoming a physician suits her personal and professional interests.

“It’s a combination of science and service,” she said. “I don’t think any other career really combines the two of those as much as medicine does.”

Akkoor is a 2011 graduate of Oswego East High School.

Bridget Hansen

Bridget Hansen. Click image to download. Photo: Renee Ronzone

Hansen, a UIC Honors College junior majoring in anthropology and history, will study advanced beginning Arabic in Nizwa, Oman, through a program administered by AMIDEAST, an American nonprofit educational training and development organization.

Hansen enjoys exploring challenging languages and unfamiliar subjects. Since transferring to UIC in spring 2013, she has studied Arabic and the art and archaeology of the ancient Near East, in addition to conducting a domestic research project about a Hittite archaeological site in north central Turkey.

“All anthropologists are originally fascinated by the concept of the ‘other’ — people and cultures who are drastically different — but are ultimately driven by a deep sense of love and an innate need for knowledge and understanding,” she said. “I believe that anthropology is the best way in which we can understand others, and the Arab world in particular is very misunderstood in American society.”

Before pursuing graduate studies and a career in anthropology, Hansen plans to seek post-graduate opportunities with the Peace Corps and Fulbright scholar program.

“Our consumer and entrepreneurial culture stresses individualism and competition, but I’ve always felt it was important to be connected to people,” Hansen said. “Without deep connection and love, we will not survive as a species, and this starts by helping others and being compassionate.”

Hansen, a 2007 McHenry East High School graduate, was recently awarded an Honors College tuition waiver and the department of anthropology’s Nasrin Mahani Scholarship. She is also a University Student Ambassador.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

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