IOWA CITY — A recent graduate from Iowa City will travel to Indonesia for an intensive study abroad program to learn the country’s language this summer.
Isabel Rushton, an 18-year-old who graduated in May after being home-schooled, is one of 670 American students — as well as one of three Iowans — selected to receive a full scholarship from the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Rushton will spend six weeks of her summer intensively studying Indonesian while staying with a host family in Jakarta, the capitol of Indonesia. She will arrive in the country July 1.
“It’s really exciting,” Rushton said.
Each year, the NSLI-Y program selects hundreds of high school students to participate in an immersion experience to learn one of seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Russian and Turkish.
The program aims to not only create a generation of Americans with a language not commonly taught in the United States, but to improve the United States’ ability to engage with individuals from those countries.
More than 3,300 students applied for a spot this year.
Rushton, who hopes to pursue a career in international relations, had previously applied the past three years, but was accepted in her final year of eligibility. Indonesian was offered to applicants for the first time this year, and it caught Rushton’s interest.
“I took a look at the culture and the place and it seemed like a really interesting place that no one really knows about,” she said. “It’s the fourth most populous country on Earth. It was like ‘I’ve got to go check this out.’”
She added, “for a country with that many people, I think it’s important for Americans go learn that language.”
Rushton has a passion for languages, having studied abroad in Mexico this past December and taken courses throughout her high school years in Spanish. She’s also taken a course in Mandarin Chinese, she said.
Rushton will attend Kirkwood College this fall, and plans to eventually transfer to a different college to study international relations. She hopes to one day work for the U.S. State Department.
And in order to do so, she intends to learn as many languages as possible by taking on various study abroad programs in the coming years.
“I love languages,” she said. “Anywhere I can go, I’d love to learn as much as I can.”