How I Landed My Dream Internship

Mark Haver / Florida Southern College »

In the summer of 2018, I participated in the Critical Language Scholarship in Indonesia. For two whole months, I lived in Malang, East Java, with a host family where I took Indonesian language and culture classes. Within two months, I went from being unable to say “thank you” in Indonesian to being able to explain how climate change affects sea turtles in this entirely new language.

The Critical Language Scholarship, a program run by the State Department, is dedicated to expanding the number of undergraduate and graduate American students exposed to foreign cultures and languages. Studying and mastering foreign languages aids the United States in protecting national security and economic prosperity while also advancing the individual in a globalizing and increasingly competitive modern workforce. Indonesian is not the only language offered by the program; Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu are other language programs offered. Different languages require different levels of existing proficiency, but for Indonesian, there was no previous language-learning requirement, allowing me to apply and be selected.

I chose Indonesia because of my interest in sustainable development. Historically, population growth has necessitated abuse of natural resources. Indonesia, as a rapidly industrializing ASEAN economic powerhouse, has the opportunity to take a different route and harness the potential of development in a responsible, ethical, and sustainable manner. I knew that, by learning the language, not only would I be able to communicate with the people I met about why I think environmental protection is important, but this skill would also be helpful if I were to look for jobs in community conservation or environmentalism campaigns in Indonesia.

This explanation of why you want to be part of the program is expected in the application. Because of the nature of this arduous and competitive program, the application is quite extensive—definitely not something to be drafting the night before the deadline! I worked profusely with my school’s scholarship office and advisor to review the multiple drafts of the responses to the short answer questions that I wrote for the application. The application also requires several letters of recommendation, so I contacted my recommenders well in advance. It was so important to get advice from different people about my application so I had the best chance. Once I submitted my application, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best!

My experience during the internship was absolutely incredible. My host family exposed me to so many Indonesian customs and practices that I never would have been able to experience in a classroom setting. Additionally, the patience and kindness they showed to me during the entire program humbled and inspired me. My teachers were absolutely fantastic. Classes were divided into small groups of four or five based on speaking proficiency, and there were four teachers per class. This type of individualized learning not only made me very engaged with the learning material, but it also allowed me to develop amazing relationships with the people I saw every day. American students are paired with two language partners who are essentially with them the whole summer to help develop their speaking skills and be their best friend! Even though we could barely understand each other at the beginning of the program, my partners and I are now great friends and still talk all the time!

This may not be surprising, but living in a completely separate hemisphere will really shape your world perspective! By being exposed to such a contrast, I learned how to become very adaptable and how to deal with communication or translation barriers. Because I came in knowing no Indonesian language, I discovered how to learn quickly and how to pick up on nonverbal cues. All of these skills are transferable in a workplace because they all taught me how to communicate better with people, and now I can translate that previous phrase in a language spoken by more than 150 million people. In the context of the future environmental work I want to do, a developed understanding of Indonesian language and culture is what will be necessary in communicating community conservation and sustainable development projects with Indonesians.

Overall, this experience was fabulous for me, and I hope that you are just as interested in the Critical Language Scholarship as I was. Getting the chance to move overseas for two months to be immersed in a foreign culture for free is an experience of a lifetime.


Meet our Ambassadors!

If you are interested in getting involved in our Student Ambassador program, contact Erin Pettus at

Learn More About Florida Southern College

Florida Southern College is a rapidly rising star among the nation’s best private colleges. Located along Central Florida’s high-tech corridor, the College enrolls undergraduate students from 43 states and 39 countries on its scenic, 113-acre campus. Recognized for its focus on “engaged learning,” FSC guarantees every student an internship. An innovative new program, the Junior Journey, guarantees all entering students the opportunity to study abroad during their junior or senior year at no cost as part of one of their courses. The College has a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, offers more than 50 majors, and is known for its vibrant student life culture and extraordinarily beautiful campus.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links to products and services. We may receive commissions for purchases made through these links.