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Santa Monica College Student Receives State Department Scholarship
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By Lookout Staff

May 24, 2016 -- A Santa Monica College (SMC) student is headed to India to study Punjabi this summer after being awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language (CLS) Scholarship.

Sharon Nat was one of 560 students from more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide who will spend eight to ten weeks in one of 24 locations around the world studying languages, college officials said.

The all-expenses-paid program is "a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans mastering critical foreign languages," officials said.

A Psychology major at SMC and incoming Director of Sustainability for the SMC Associated Students, Nat will head to Chandigarh, a city of approximately one million in the northern part of India

Nat was encouraged to "overcome any apprehensions" and apply for the scholarship by her colleagues in the Adelante program, said college spokeswoman Grace Smith.

Nat, whose mother is Mexican-American and her late father Punjabi-Indian, grew up learning to speak the language, but lost her proficiency after her father died and the family moved away from their Indian relatives.

“I want to be a psychologist, to work with people who speak English, Punjabi and Spanish,” Nat said. “I think that, as a psychologist, if I really want to understand what people are going through and earn their trust, I need to know the culture, and speak the language.”

The stay in Chandigarh will give Nat the opportunity to meet her relatives in India for the first time.

“I have always regretted that I stopped speaking Punjabi," said Nat, who hopes to transfer to Loyola Marymount University next fall. "I’m ready now.”

In the past ten years, the CLS Program has sent more than 5,000 American undergraduate and graduate students overseas to learn critical languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Chinese, Korean, Swahili, Persian and Punjabi.

Students who participate are expected to continue studying their language of choice and apply it in their careers, college officials said.

The CLS Program in India is administered by American Councils for International Education in partnership with American Institute of Indian Studies. For more information about the CLS Program, visit

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