Language major lands competitive CLS award


You’re currently spending the semester abroad and get a chance to stay for an entire year, would you? Cassandra Souza certainly did, not thinking twice about it.

It all began when Souza, a senior, decided to pursue two degrees in linguistics for Spanish and Arabic at Bloomsburg University. Her first study abroad trip took place in summer of 2015 during a six-week program to Fez, Morocco. That was just the start to Souza’s journey.

“Before you study abroad people say ‘culture shock is going to happen,’” Souza said. “It’s very real. You’re going to feel isolated, but I never felt like that. I didn’t have culture shock going in, but when I came home is when I felt it. Reverse culture shock.”

Souza planned to spend the spring semester in Spain but before leaving, her advisors and mentors — Yahya Laayouni, assistant professor of Arabic and French, and Mykola Polyuha, assistant professor of Russian and German — convinced her to apply for the competitive Critical Language Scholarship Program.

Halfway into her semester in Granada, Spain, she learned she won the scholarship and committed to spending the following summer in Meknes, Morocco. Souza finished out the 2016 school year continuing her study abroad through the fall semester in Spain. After a crazy year abroad, Souza returned home in December to complete her education at BU.

Souza is the fourth BU student since 2009 to win a CLS award, which is funded through U.S. Department of State.

The experiences Souza gained in these countries have molded her into who she is today. She has learned the perspectives of citizens in both Spain and Morocco. Souza now can see what they see looking into the culture of the United States.

“If anything, people hesitate to go abroad,” Souza said. “There’s this barrier where people don’t decide ‘I’m going to do it.’ It’s not as expensive as you’d think. I would just really encourage people travel. Bloomsburg has all of the resources available you just have to want to find them.”

After graduation, Souza plans to return to Spain on a cultural ambassador program. She will be helping in school centers with English language lessons.

“I have so much more in my life from these experiences, and it’s absolutely incredible,” Souza said.