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Appalachian student receives U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship

BOONE—Brian Clee heads to Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, this summer. The Appalachian State University sophomore has received a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Russian. He is one of 32 students to receive the summer scholarship from a competitive applicant pool.

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A resident of Charlotte, Clee was drawn to the Russian language after reading the works of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in his high school literature classes. He wanted to read more of their works, but in the writers’ native language. Watching Russian films, such as those by Andrei Tarkovsky, and listening to classical music by Russian composers further fueled his passion for learning the language.

A computer science major, Clee began taking Russian as a freshman at Appalachian.

Clee will spend seven to 10 weeks in a language immersion program in Kazan living with a host family and studying with 14 other students. The students will speak only Russian during the summer program. He is the second Appalachian student selected to study in Russia. In 2012, Elizabeth Thomas was selected for studies in Ufa, the capital city of the Republic of Bashkortostan.

Clee has traveled overseas to Nicaragua and had experiences being out of his comfort zone.

“This will be radically different, but the overseas experience in Nicaragua definitely will assist me,” he said. “Kazan is on the Volga River and through this program we will be able to visit several villages along the river and visit the Ural Mountain region.”

“Brian is an excellent student,” said his Russian language professor Dr. Irina Barclay. “This experience will allow him to further develop his Russian language skills and gain knowledge of Russia’s Tartar area, its culture, religion and people.”

As part of the program, participants are expected to become fluent in the language they are studying. “In my application essay, I wrote about ideas I have for merging computer science and the Russian language, which I think helped me receive this scholarship,” he said.

The experience, Clee said, may lead to Russian studies at the graduate level in addition to graduate work in computer science.

The CLS program pays for all expenses associated with the study abroad experience, including domestic and international airfare, language instruction, housing and meals, cultural enrichment activities, applicable visa fees, and entry fees for program-related excursions.

The program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish or Urdu languages. Appalachian offers courses in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Russian, in addition to French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

Programs supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The CLS Program is administered by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) and American Councils for International Education.

For more information about the CLS Program or other exchange programs offered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, visit and