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Clemencia El Antouri Awarded Pickering Fellowship

Clemencia pic

Congratulations to Clemencia El Antouri for receiving a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship for students interested in careers in the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service. A major in Romance Languages (Spanish and French) and International Affairs, she will receive a scholarship of $84,000 for graduate school, an internship at Capitol Hill, an internship at a US embassy abroad, and entrance after graduate school into the Foreign Service as a diplomat. 

An alumna of UGA en España study abroad in Cadiz, Spain, and a speaker of Arabic and Mandarin Chinese in addition to French and Spanish, Clemencia spoke with the department about studying languages at UGA: Studying language, literature, and culture at UGA prepared me to pursue a career in diplomacy. I would not have had access to these opportunities if it wasn’t for the time spent studying Spanish, French, Arabic, and Mandarin Chinese with their respective cultures. Being a Foreign Service Officer requires a deeper understanding of the world and a high level of cultural adaptability to thrive in foreign environments. Being multilingual and having experience working with diverse cultures are some of the most valuable skills today for an increasingly globalized workforce.

How would you describe the value of your language studies? 

I cannot truly express in words how valuable language studies have been to me both in my personal and professional life. I studied four languages at the university level: Spanish, Arabic, French, and Mandarin Chinese. Each of these languages has provided me with a different perspective on the world and opened opportunities related to international affairs. Languages have been a way for me to connect with my heritage and connect with different communities around me. I believe it is severely underestimated the amount of value being multilingual brings to one’s resume and one’s outlook on the world.

What was your most memorable or influential language class?

I would say my most influential language class was Business Spanish with Dr. Fuad Elhage. Even though I was not a business major, I chose to take this class because international business is very tied to international politics due to trade relations and I wanted to continue to develop my vocabulary after having spent the summer studying in Spain. This class was quite small with around eight students and was by far the most intense language class I had taken at UGA. In each class, we either went over news articles in Spanish, studied cultural differences in doing business with the Spanish-speaking world, or did presentations on current events in international commerce. Not only did my level of Spanish improve significantly from the class, but the weekly TED Talks we watched in class taught me how to interpret cultural differences. I think this element in the class added a level of humanity and I found truly inspiring the stories I heard from men and women of various backgrounds. I continue to use the skills I learned from Dr. Elhage’s class each day and am confident that these skills will be indispensable as a diplomat. 

How did you make connections between everything you’ve studied and the career path you’ve chosen?

When entering UGA, I did not initially know how to connect my studies and interests with a career path. In high school, I started self-studying Arabic in order to connect with my heritage. Learning Arabic ignited my interest in not only Arab culture, politics, and history but also in studying world languages. Through reading history books on the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region and following the news in Arabic, I learned about the repeated fights for democracy and government accountability through the Arab Springs and the arrest of various Arab human rights activists. This inspired me to study International Affairs to gain an understanding of the current instability in MENA and analyze the situation from a human security and international security perspective. My studies in Middle Eastern politics led me to conduct research on the democratic backsliding in Turkey and present it at the 2023 SPIA Undergraduate Research Colloquium. 

With globalization and increasing interdependence between states, I find it imperative to study and experience multiple world regions to develop a more nuanced perspective. For my Romance Languages major, I chose to focus on Spanish and French languages due to Spain and France having an extended history with MENA such as during the period of Al-Andalus or the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. The language immersive classes in the Romance Languages department strengthened my proficiency in Spanish and French and taught me how to approach cultural differences in the workforce. Thus, upon entering my senior year at UGA I knew I wanted a career in which I could be involved politically while using my languages and hopefully working abroad. When I discovered the Pickering Fellowship and did further research on a career as a diplomat for the Foreign Service, I felt that it aligned perfectly with my experiences. I am very excited now to be on the path of becoming a diplomat and believe that all my studies at UGA have prepared me for this new phase of life. 

What advice do you have for students at Georgia who are just getting started?

As someone who is super passionate about languages, I would advise students at UGA to take advantage of our language resources outside of class. The Romance Languages department offers many resources to practice your language skills outside of class. Residing in Mary Lyndon Hall’s Spanish and French language communities has been an amazing way for me to increase my speaking practice and meet others who also share my interest in foreign languages. There are also the weekly language tables for Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese which consist of participants from all majors and in both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of course, study abroad programs are some of the easiest ways to be completely immersed in the language and culture, but even after graduation there are plenty of opportunities to live abroad such as through Fulbright and TAPIF. Language learning is a continuous journey that does not stop once one exits the classroom or graduates from university. 

Personnel in this Article

Lecturer of Spanish for the Professions

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