Interview with Cyprian Christian, Boren Scholarship and Critical Language Scholarship Winner

Cyprian Christian in front of Gelman Library
April 29, 2015

Cyprian Christian, a GW Columbian College of Arts and Sciences junior studying Economics and Arabic Studies, has been awarded two prestigious study abroad awards.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) is a program from the Department of State that allows students the opportunity to pursue intensive study of 13 languages deemed critical to national interests. Cyprian will spend two months in Morocco this summer strengthening his Arabic language skills through in-class instruction, mentorship and cultural activities. Through the Boren Scholarship, which is sponsored by the National Security Education Program, Cyprian will then spend a year in the United Arab Emirates at the American University of Sharjah. At AUS, Cyprian will be studying the economic relationship between the US and the Persian Gulf, as it relates to US national security.

Cyprian initially became interested in cross-cultural understanding when he led the Minority Male Initiative at Howard Community College (HCC). After growing up in Harlem, New York, Cyprian felt that he had been isolated and was not very culturally aware. Through his position with the Minority Male Initiative, he was exposed to peers from a variety of cultural backgrounds and was challenged with uniting them through academic assistance and moral support. What began as a program just to raise the academic performance of minority men at HCC, he says, turned into a “team-oriented cohort of young men who strived for academic success and community outreach.” Read more about the Minority Male Initiative and Cyprian’s involvement here.

In the Fall of 2014, Cyprian transferred to GW where he has been actively pursuing his love for Arabic language through courses and through the Arabic club. In Arabic, Cyprian has found a true passion and is dedicating himself to a year of language immersion abroad. Learning Arabic has also allowed him to explore his studies in international economics in a much more nuanced and in-depth way.  He looks forward to his year at AUS and fully immersing himself in Emirati culture.

We asked Cyprian to share some of his thoughts on the application process for Boren and CLS and how these fellowships are fitting into his college career.


1.      How did you hear about CLS and Boren and what inspired you to apply to these awards?

Study abroad in the Middle East was not an option at my prior institution [Howard Community College]. I was originally informed of Boren a year before I attended GW when I was attending community college, but faced challenges in the application because my school did not have those approved programs within my region of interest. Therefore, I knew while deciding and entering GW I was going to apply for the Boren Scholarship. In regards to CLS, I simply saw an email that most people may ignore from the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research, but was really important, and seized the opportunity.  


2.      What was it like transferring from Howard Community College to GW?

Entering GW I was extremely overwhelmed by the culture. Though many students who have been here for a while may not be aware of it, but as a fish in a new pond, this culture was very evident to me. My prior institution was phenomenal in preparing me for the academic transition, however I was not equipped for the ambitious, competitive, and inspirational culture I was suddenly immersed in. While I devoted a great deal towards my academics, I saw that my peers were taking on internships, jobs, extracurriculars, and really just seizing every opportunity. After combating discouraging thoughts, I motivated myself to take on the challenge and make the most of this environment that I believe will prepare me for many more life encounters.


3.      What was the application process like for CLS and Boren? How did you use our office?

The process was challenging but all the resources the GW provides such as the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research and the Gelman Writing Center facilitated it. Knowing that it was a wonderful opportunity that I was really looking forward to, I started as early as possible, a month prior to the deadline, and went to the information session. What I believe helped me the most was the guidance of the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research, which helped me focus my ideas into a well-structured application. They had great insight on ways I could strengthen my application and better express my expertise in relation to the application. I truly appreciated their time and feedback that showed in the application but also helped me realize to myself what my actual goals in this region, with this language, and my major were. This was something I never really tied together. Throughout college I studied concentrations of interests, but in a sense, they now helped me advise myself in determining my aspirations.  


4.      What was your reaction when you found you had won these awards and what are you most excited about for the year ahead?

I felt like my hard work has paid off. It is pretty simple. I was so proud of myself because just a few months before I was the student who was very nervous, stressed, and worried that I would not be able to adjust to the culture of GW. Now, I felt as if I exceeded all my expectations and this is only the beginning. I set a goal, and I achieved it. I then gained a new sense of confidence. Of course I still knew that not everything will always go in my favor, and sometimes I may just happen to be “lucky.” However, I determined that hard work puts me in a better position to obtain that luck and achieve my goals. I look forward to taking on many opportunities and making the most of this experience. The linguistic and cultural immersion will help me not only in my career goals, but my life ambitions as well. As I meet new people from a culture foreign from mine, I am eager for the intercultural exchange of ideas, beliefs, and arts that will provide me with a more holistic perspective of the countries I visit (Morocco and United Arab Emirates) and hopefully of America to the people I interact with.


UPDATE: Check out Cyprian's pictures from his CLS experience in Morocco this summer!