Religious studies Ph.D. candidate Rohit Singh received the U.S. Dept. of State 2011 Critical Language Scholarship, which helps American students study and master foreign languages.

Singh, who will spend the summer in India studying Pakistan’s national language, Urdu, is among 575 graduate and undergraduate students selected from a pool of 5,200 applicants nationwide. The program is part of the State Dept.’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

According to Singh, the opportunity will help him meet his goal of conducting research in the Muslim communities of Southeast Asia where Urdu is spoken.

“It is necessary for me to study Urdu because of my own research interest in Islam in North India and the Tibetan cultural sphere,” Singh said. “For my dissertation research, I will be using Urdu to interview Muslims in North India and to read Islamic texts. I am pursuing an academic career which will involve teaching, research and publishing, as well as public service.”

The State Dept. created the program in 2006 for students to participate in intensive overseas studies of languages including Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi and Turkish with a summer curriculum equivalent to one year of academic language study. Singh said the recognition will help him better understand the cultural and historical origins of his particular field of study.

“I am just very honored and humbled to receive this award,” Singh said. “The Critical Language Scholarship will allow me to continue to pursue the things that I am passionate about doing in the field of religious studies, such as immersing myself in foreign languages, forming relationships across cultures, traveling to new places and observing religion as it is lived and experienced in diverse contexts.”