Mercer Students Mary Martinez, Hoor Qureshi Receive Critical Language Scholarships to Study Abroad this Summer

Critical Language Scholars 2018

Junior Ryan Neil Selected as an Alternate

MACON – Mercer University senior Mary Martinez and junior Hoor Qureshi were recently awarded Critical Language Scholarships by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to study abroad this summer.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully-funded summer overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. With the goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries, the CLS provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the U.S. at every level of language learning.

Martinez, from Savannah, is a global health studies major with a minor in French. She was selected to study Korean in South Korea, after having previously traveled to the country as part of a Mercer On Mission trip. On her first trip, she became interested in the experiences of North Korean refugees who have fled to South Korea and hopes to resume her work with the refugee population.

“Receiving this scholarship is an honor, especially because the application process itself was a journey. I had the opportunity to experience the unwavering support of my professors, peers and family, which I will always be grateful for,” said Martinez. “I’m an absolute beginner in Korean, so I hope that by the end of the program I can read and understand enough grammar to build the foundation for achieving proficiency. Plus, I hope to not only learn about Korean cultural concepts but experience them, too.”

Martinez serves as editor-in-chief of Mercer’s global health newsletter and president of Le Cercle Français, the University’s French club. She also works as a writing tutor at the Academic Resource Center. Her interests include playing the ukulele, cooking, crocheting, reading and drinking tea.

She aspires to earn a Ph.D. and teach at the university level.

Qureshi, from Marietta, is a double-major in global health studies and global development studies with a minor in environmental studies. She was selected to study Urdu in India, allowing her to reconnect with her roots as a South Asian-American and further explore the region’s history and culture.

“I applied for a Critical Language Scholarship during my sophomore year and did not even make it to the semifinalist round. Getting into the program this time around was even more meaningful to me. It has shown me that perseverance and following your passion can open amazing opportunities,” said Qureshi. “I am now, more than ever, excited to intensely study and learn Urdu to increase my fluency in the language by having the invaluable experience of living in Lucknow, India, for two months. I know this experience will be challenging and will push me to think beyond anything I could learn from a textbook or sitting in a classroom.”

Qureshi has been a peer adviser and member of the Orientation Leadership Team for the Office of Academic and Advising Services. She has served in a number of leadership roles, including vice president of the Muslim Student Association, philanthropy chair, secretary and president-elect of Mercer Masala, and a member of the marketing board for MerServe. She also was selected to participate in the SOUL Project to learn and teach how to facilitate and engage in deliberative dialogue.

She aspires to participate in the Peace Corps or Fulbright Scholar Program before earning a Ph.D. in global studies with a focus on increasing access to education in remote communities in South Asia. Ultimately, she would like to teach at the university level.

Additionally, junior Ryan Neil was selected as an alternate for a Critical Language Scholarship. Neil, from Westborough, Massachusetts, is a double-major in global health and global development with minors in French and international affairs.

Neil has served as executive director of MU Miracle and on the executive board for Pi Kappa Phi. He will spend the summer interning in Kigali, Rwanda, with MindLeaps, a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to decreasing the number of street children in post-conflict and developing countries.

The CLS Program does not require applicants to have any experience studying critical languages. The scholarship is offered in 14 languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu.

The program seeks participants with diverse interests, and from a wide range of fields of study and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the U.S. Participants are selected based on their commitment to language learning and plans to apply their language skills to their future academic or professional pursuits. For more information, visit