KINGSTON, RI – June 9, 2022 – A record 28 University of Rhode Island students and one faculty member have been named Beatrice S. Demers Foreign Language Fellows, collectively receiving more than $330,000 in grants to pursue immersion in a foreign language.
One of these students, pawtucket Resident Julia Al-Amir received $8,820 to fund her studies abroad at the Sijal Institute for Arabic Language and Culture in Amman, Jordan. A rising senior, she is a double major in Arabic and Human Development and Family Science with a minor in Leadership Studies.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with people and learning about different leadership styles,” she said. “I came to URI through our talent development program and felt at home from the start of my TD summer.”
Al-Amir, whose family is Syrian, grew up in a home where Arabic was always spoken. In college, she wanted to further develop her Arabic skills and focus on areas she didn’t know as well, like reading and writing.
“Since I was young, my Arabic culture has been the most rewarding and unique social identity of myself. However, I sometimes find myself at roadblocks as I am not fluent in Arabic because I spent my whole life in the United States,” she said. “I feel like I’m generally stuck between two different worlds — being Arab and being American.”
In Jordan, Al-Amir will be immersed in Arabic culture and hopes to return more fluent in all aspects of the language, including speaking, reading, writing and understanding. This will be her first visit to the Middle East and she looks forward to spending time in Jordan.
“Spending time in Amman will connect me even more to my roots and help me understand topics and such that I may not currently fully understand.”
Al-Amir expressed his gratitude to URI for helping her on the journey that brought her here.
“I am very grateful and honored to have the opportunity and assistance I needed from Demers and URI to help me achieve my goal of studying abroad in a country Arabic speaker,” she said. “I look forward to sharing my experiences and memories of Jordan once I return to the United States!”
Al-Amir joins 27 other students who will study in Japan, Singapore, Italy, Taiwan, Germany, France and Spain, including Chinese star student Leon Hartley.
Hartley, originally from Burlington, Connecticut, was introduced to the Chinese language in high school. His high school welcomed Chinese exchange students. “It was pretty cool, just being able to grow alongside them and immerse myself a bit [at the] on the surface [with] culture,” he said.
In ninth grade, he took his first Chinese class, after his parents pointed out to him that it was a good business language. He came to like it and was inspired by his teacher to continue learning the language.
“That’s the only reason I came to URI because of the (Chinese) flagship (program),” he said, “and I’m glad I did, because I’m here where I am today.”
Hartley, a dual major in computer science and Mandarin Chinese, will spend the entire 2022-2023 academic year — her senior year — in Taiwan at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University. In the first semester, he will take Chinese language courses on professional use and at least one direct registration course with URI to help prepare for the internship he will do in the second semester, which will be determined once the academic year started. .
“I hope to use this program to learn more about the culture, to become a more complete person and to better understand foreign cultures,” he said.[and] at the same time, I hope to meet many good people and learn more about Chinese language.
Hartley, a rising senior, said he was honored to receive the scholarship.
“It means a lot,” he said, “it means that the foundation has trusted me enough to support me financially so that I can go abroad and achieve the goals I have worked for for so long. It’s an honor.”
The fund is managed by the Rhode Island Foundation, which also manages the application and selection process. It is named after longtime URI professor Beatrice Demers, who left $4 million to the Rhode Island Foundation when she died in 2007 to ensure her passion for foreign languages lives on.
The program is open to all Rhode Island residents, not just students. Nonresident students attending a Rhode Island college or university are also eligible. Preference is given to URI applicants, including alumni, faculty, staff, and current students who share a passion and commitment to language learning. Since its inception in 2011, more than $2.5 million has been awarded to applicants affiliated with URI. Interested students should contact the Office of National Scholarships and Academic Opportunities for advice.
The other Demers recipients and the languages they study are:
- Samantha Adams, Physics and German major, from Exeter (German);
- Temitope Aina, Biomedical and French Engineering major, from Providence (French);
- Joshua Benros, majoring in German and Mechanical Engineering, from Hopkinton (German);
- Alek Boving, specializing in ocean and German engineering, from Hope Valley (German);
- Daniel Bradley, majoring in Computer Engineering and French, from Cumberland (French);
- Wilmer Chinchilla, majoring in electrical engineering and global language and area studies on the Japanese track, from Johnston (Japanese);
- Dreydan Cianci, major in criminology, sociology and French, from Richmond (French);
- Conrad Du, majoring in Chinese and Chemistry, from Scituate (Chinese);
- Shakiah Faris, specializing in Human Development and Family Studies and Early Childhood Education, from Providence (Arabic);
- Suzelle Glickman, majoring in international studies and diplomacy and Chinese, from South Kingstown (Chinese);
- Isaiah Kittel, Supply Chain Management and Chinese, Portsmouth (Chinese);
- Korali Kouadio, majoring in computer and Japanese engineering, from Riverside (Japanese);
- Sofia Lanzi, Mechanical and French Engineering major, from Cranston (French);
- Sokpearoun Lorn, majoring in computer engineering and global language and area studies on the Japanese track, from North Providence (Japanese);
- McCarthy Newton, majoring in Mechanical and German Engineering, from North Kingstown (German);
- Misty Shi, specializing in global business management and Chinese, from Providence (Chinese);
- Kevin Suggs, majoring in Computer Engineering and Japanese, from Pawtucket (Japanese); and
- Associate Professor at Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies Rabia Hos in East Greenwich, who will study in Germany.
- Tate Blazonis, specializing in biomedical engineering and Spanish, from Georgetown, Massachusetts (Spanish);
- Fiona Carrez, specializing in Civil Engineering and Spanish, from Boxborough, Massachusetts (Spanish);
- Katie Field, majoring in Mechanical and German Engineering, from Baltimore, Maryland (German);
- Victoria Johnson, specializing in nursing and Spanish, from Glastonbury, Connecticut;
- Karina Lew, specializing in global affairs and Chinese, from Huntington Station, New York;
- Rhea Shetty, specializing in pharmaceutical sciences and French, from Niskayuna, New York (French); and
- Erin Torgersen, specializing in China and global business management, from Chester, New Jersey (Chinese).
Mary Lind, a graduate student who works in URI’s Department of Marketing and Communications, wrote this release.