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Darla Moore School of Business

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Learning languages

Student and alumna hone language skills with scholarship

With their sights set on international careers, a Moore School student and alumna were awarded scholarships to participate in a prestigious and intensive language immersion program in summer 2021.

Timothy Fritts (’23 international business and operations and supply chain) and Ashley Labrie (’21 finance, international business and management) both say the Critical Language Scholarship helped them take steps toward their goals of working abroad and becoming proficient in another language.

Fritts said he understands that foreign language skills are valuable if someone wants to conduct business overseas.

“When it comes to doing business internationally, having foreign language skills is of critical value,” he said. “It shows your business partner that you are invested in their culture and in doing business with them.”

Russian was Fritts’ chosen language to study during the 8-week summer program. He credits the Critical Language Scholarship for helping him enhance his proficiency.

“The Critical Language Scholarship Russian program has a fantastic set of teachers and language partners that helped enhance my grammar, reading and conversational skills,” Fritts said. “For me, the conversational experience with native speakers was the most valuable part.”

Fritts said the scholarship program taught him to be unafraid of trying new things even if he thought he might fail.

“I did not think I would win the Critical Language Scholarship, but I still applied, and it was an incredible experience,” he said. “The same is true for language learning; it may feel embarrassing to talk to a native speaker while having limited knowledge of a language, but that is how you are going to get better.”

Fritts said the lessons he learned from the scholarship program go hand-in-hand with the lessons he’s learning in his Moore School courses. He said Daniel Ostergaard, an international business clinical professor, has taught Fritts “fortune favors the bold” and that students should embrace getting out of their comfort zones.

In the future, Fritts plans to pursue his ambition of traveling the world and conducting business. Among the options Fritts is considering for his future career is becoming commissioned in the U.S. military as an officer, working for the U.S. State Department or being and entrepreneur abroad.  

“If all goes well, I hope to be in some country on the other side of the world doing work that keeps me active and out from behind a desk,” he said.

Like Fritts, Labrie has aspirations to work abroad professionally.

Labrie applied for the scholarship program to enhance her Portuguese speaking skills and become “immersed” in Brazilian culture.

“The Critical Language Scholarship does a phenomenal job at immersion by assigning each student a language partner in-country and hosting weekly cultural events,” she said. “The program allows students to learn the equivalent of a year’s worth of language study in eight weeks, which was great for me since I just graduated and was looking for ways to maintain and grow my Portuguese.”

On top of the knowledge Labrie gained from this summer program, she also made history by being the first person to receive the scholarship to study Portuguese. She said it was a great decision to study the language because of her admiration for the country.

“I felt that the best way to learn about a culture and population is through language, and I am so happy I made that decision,” Labrie said.

The scholarship was a good resource for strengthening weaker points in Labrie’s Portuguese. She said that even though the program was online this year, it was still very engaging.

“I was exposed to accents from all the regions of Brazil and even had a professor from Portugal, strengthening my understanding of the speaking styles of different Portuguese-speaking countries and regions,” she said. “We even had a business and sustainability class where I was able to learn about the Brazilian economy and business environment.”

Labrie said the Critical Language Scholarship not only grew her language skills but also her ability to understand cultural differences and how to navigate through them.

Along with the lessons she learned from the scholarship program, Labrie said the Moore School gave her the business foundation she needed to succeed in her internships and in her current job as a middle market banking analyst with JP Morgan Chase and Co. out of their San Francisco office.

She said what she learned as part of the Critical Language Scholarship program will help her in future endeavors abroad.

In the future, Labrie plans to be a part of the corporate international business world.

“I hope I am living and working abroad down the road,” she said. “I have always enjoyed engaging with global economic markets, so I can definitely see myself advancing in that space.”

-James Culbertson

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