Three Columbia GS Students Receive Critical Language Scholarships

This summer, three GS Students will travel to Taiwan, Jordan, and Morocco to develop their language skills through the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program. 

April 19, 2022

Three GS students were among seven Columbia University winners of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). The program, run by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, aims to help students learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world. Students awarded the scholarship participate in group-based summer intensive language instruction and cultural enrichment experiences in one of a dozen or more critical language sites overseas. 

This summer, Anthony Costanzo ’23GS, Audrey Kost '23GS, and Ysabella Titi '23GS will travel to Taiwan, Jordan, and Morocco and develop their language skills through full immersion. They recently spoke with us about their unique CLS opportunities and what they hope to gain from their experiences abroad.

Anthony Costanzo, ’23GS

Anthony Costanzo, originally from Portland, Oregon, will be attending National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan, for an eight-week intensive Mandarin course. A double-major in political science and East Asian studies, Costanzo is interested in East Asian security and Chinese foreign policy. 

“I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the premier destination in the Ivies for nontraditional students and veterans alike,” he said. 

Costanzo served in the Marine Corps before coming to GS, and his passion for service continues to drive his academic pursuits. At GS, he has been active among the student-veteran community, serving as Student-Veteran Representative on the General Studies Student Council (GSSC) and the President of Military Veterans of Columbia University. 

During his time in the Marines, he worked mostly as an embassy guard in four countries and at six diplomatic facilities, including the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, China. He credits his experience there as playing an important role in shaping his view of contemporary U.S.-China relations. In Chengdu, he connected with local communities when he began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “This experience taught me that diplomacy—much like jiu-jitsu—requires the application of strategic decision-making and negotiation in order to mitigate dire physical consequences,” he said. 

His belief in the importance of a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to diplomacy encouraged him to apply to the CLS Program. He hopes to leverage the experience to help him pursue a career as a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department. “I aim to engage with the cultural, historical, and regional nuances of Taiwan and East Asia in order to gain critical insights on the future of cross-Strait relations,” he said. 

Audrey Kost, '23GS

Audrey Kost, a rising senior in the Dual BA Program between Sciences Po and Columbia, will study Arabic for nine weeks at the Jordan Language Academy in Amman. 

“Although I have studied formal Arabic for a while, I'm also excited to learn some of the Jordanian dialect and also learn more about Jordanian culture,” she said. 

A native of San Mateo, California, Kost first took Arabic courses in high school, and also had the opportunity to study in Marrakech, Morocco as part of the National Security Language Exchange for Youth. In 2021, she was a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship and studied Arabic virtually with the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco. While she thoroughly enjoyed her experience last summer, she is looking forward to the opportunities that in-person immersion provides. After the program, she plans to travel to Lebanon and put her language skills into practice.

Kost studied economics and societies at the Menton Sciences Po campus, focusing on the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. She has continued to pursue her interest in the modern Middle East and North Africa as a history major at Columbia, and is interested in learning more about the history of diplomacy, war, and economics in those regions. Before traveling to Jordan, she will attend a course about the Middle East taught by Dr. Michael Rubin as part of the American Enterprise Institute’s Summer Honors Academy. She hopes her academic pursuits this summer will provide important context and improve her language skills to facilitate doing research with Arabic sources in her senior year.

Ysabella Titi, '23GS

Ysabella Titi will spend the summer studying Arabic in Tangier, Morocco. Originally from Paramus, New Jersey, she is a rising senior in the Dual BA Program between Sciences Po and Columbia. She was inspired to participate in the Dual BA by the experiences of her mother, who is from the Philippines, and her father, who is from Palestine. 

“While I knew they didn’t want to see me leave the greater New York City area, it was because of them that I knew I could learn to feel comfortable in a foreign environment so far away from anything I have ever known,” she said. 

In Sciences Po, Titi studied the Middle East and Mediterranean in Menton. “It was truly the Menton student body that not only made me feel at home in a new country but also taught me so much about many areas of the world that I was previously not so familiar with,” she said. She had studied Italian in high school and thus had to learn French quickly upon arriving at Science Po. In this way, her experience with immersion as part of the Dual BA Program pushed her to enhance her language learning abilities. “Living in France was incredibly humbling, but even when I made many mistakes and the task of learning French seemed impossible, I still pushed myself to learn,” she said. 

In Morocco, she will have to sign a contract promising not to speak English for the duration of her stay, and she is excited about this opportunity to push herself out of her comfort zone once again. The program will also allow her to learn either Darija or Moroccan Arabic, and about the culture of the country, which will build upon what she has learned in the classroom.

At Columbia, Titi is a human rights major with a Middle Eastern studies specialization, and believes her studies in Arabic are essential to understanding human rights issues in Arab countries. “Human rights strive to be universal and such a goal is dependent on truly understanding and listening to what is happening outside of uniquely English contexts,” she said.