Critical Language Study: UNCP graduate Doc Dillard in Indonesia this summer


After graduation in May, Doc Dillard was accepted into the State Department’s Critical Language Studies (CLS) Program. He is spending seven to 10 weeks in Indonesia studying language and culture.

The program received more than 5,200 applications for 575 scholarships. It provides group-based, intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment. CLS participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers.

From Charlotte, N.C., Dillard double-majored in sociology and religious studies with a minor in Asian studies. He has studied abroad on several occasions and was involved in many campus activities.

From Indonesia, he sent this report on August 2.

Q. You were well-traveled as a student at UNCP. Where did you study?

A. I traveled to northern states of Mexico, studied abroad in Korea twice and did an internship in Vietnam. On the way, I have made several stops in neighboring countries in East and Southeast Asia.

Q. As an undergraduate, you were an extraordinarily engaged student. What did you gain from these experiences, and what were a couple of your favorite experiences?

A. I really tried to stay involved because I feel most serene when being active. When I volunteer, my life feels as if there is a bit more purpose. It is our duty to give back to our communities. That said, my favorite highlights, of course, were working with Center for Civic and Community and Engagement. Christie Poteet and Aubrey Swett were there from the beginning and gave me many opportunities to plan, present and work on different aspects of community development. I still remember collecting plants and materials for our community garden with Christie and rehearsing my presentation on my project with Mr. Swett. From past projects, I have learned to be ready for anything and to just go for what you want, even if you are hesitant. In addition, I also learned to be more flexible and creative. Other experiences include working with the admissions office. Whenever there is an opportunity to bridge gaps, I will be there.

Q. What languages have you studied before this summer?

I have studied quite a few languages. First, I have studied Spanish and French from an early age. At UNCP, I continued both of these languages and also began studying Chinese. Through studying in Korea, I started learning the Korean language. Actually, these languages have helped in my studies with Indonesian because there are so many “loan” words with the language.

Q. What got you interested in international studies as an undergraduate?

I have always been interested in foreign cultures since my youth, but I had my first taste of international studies through traveling with Dr. James Robinson (sociology professor) to Mexico in summer 2010. I was able to learn so much about immigration and globalization through that program. I strongly encourage professors to construct more hands-on excursions such as this one. Also, building relationships with professors in different departments, such as Dr. Mihwa Choi in the Philosophy and Religion Department and Dr. Kevin Freeman in Political Science Department have also complimented my experiences.

Q. How did you find out about and become interested in the Critical Language Studies Program?

Actually, the first time I heard about this scholarship was through our Office for International Programs. Robyn Deemer, who I have worked with previously through study abroad, sent a link out to interested students. I was interested and then applied. I love the support I receive from Robyn and hope that more students will take advantage of her links and support.

Q. It was a very competitive to gain entry. What was the admissions/ interview process like?

A. First, I had to write an essay about why I wanted to study my target language. Then, the essay was sent to a panel which determined the appropriateness of the subject matter. After this, my essay is sent to Washington, D.C., and reviewed in front of a larger panel from the American Councils. American Councils made their pick, while the State Department made the final decision.

 Q. How is it going so far?

A. It is going great. It is a very intense program in the sense that there tons of activities and opportunities to engage in the language. I am currently writing my final language paper in Indonesian now. The paper discusses religion and culture within East Jawa. I am meeting interesting professors and locals who know much about Islam and other interesting cultural facts. The food and people are interesting. Each day, I think of the differences and similarities between the American South and Indonesia. Actually, there are many similarities that students should try to learn about.

 Q. What do you plan to do with your new language skill? Job? More study?

A. My goal has always been to break barriers when helping other people. Now, I want to continue my studies and work on starting a nonprofit that helps people in developing areas all over the world (English-speaking world included). Learning Indonesian is one step on helping more people. Of course, I will use Indonesian in graduate school research as well. I am constantly seeking new resources.