Thanks to State Department scholarship, Miller explores Turkey

Studying Turkish in Ankara, Turkey, last summer confirmed for Hastings College junior Betsy Miller that travel and a career in international policy are in her future.

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Hastings College junior Betsy Miller at the Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque) in Turkey during her summer in the country as part of a State Department program.

“I would love to go back to the region somehow, and I now know that Turkey, or Eurasia more broadly, is the area of the world that I would like to work in or study,” the political science and history major from Arlington, Kansas, said.

This story originally appeared in HC Today.

Miller was one of two people with Hastings College ties to earn a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in 2023. The other, Kinser Rafert, graduated from Hastings College in May and spent his summer studying Arabic in Morocco.

The CLS program is part of a movement to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages, many of which are critical to national security and economic prosperity. CLS scholars gain language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

This selective program awards fully funded scholarships to 500 American students, representing 245 U.S. colleges and universities. To have two students from Hastings College in one year is remarkable.

“Understanding other languages and cultures is the key to success in careers in international affairs and service to our country,” said Dr. Corey Stutte, visiting assistant professor of political science. “Our students’ participation in the highly selective CLS program is an excellent example of how Hastings is more than just 13 square miles and 25,000 people—Hastings College is a gateway for developing global citizens and leaders for tomorrow.”

Host family expands opportunities

Miller’s summer consisted of three hours of class each day during which she and her classmates focused on reading, writing, listening and speaking Turkish—a language unlike any she had previously studied.

“[Turkish] is not a part of any major language families and the most similar grammatical structure is actually found in the Japanese language,” Miller said.

Living with a local host family with limited English skills expanded her opportunities to hone her listening and speaking skills as well as learn more about Turkish culture.

“Turks drink tea at least three times a day, often more, and I grew to really like that part of every day,” said Miller. “While I don’t drink nearly as much tea as a Turk, and I don’t usually drink Turkish çay [tea] here, starting a day with a hot cup of tea is something I will probably continue to do forever.”

By Alicia O’Donnell ‘96

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