Two grads win State Department scholarship before medical school

Two University of Illinois at Chicago graduates will travel to India this summer for intensive foreign language study supported by the U.S. State Department’s Critical Languages Scholarship.

The competitive award will place Illinois residents Sonia Bajaj, of Oak Brook, and Jinit Desai, of Lisle, in a fully funded 10-week language program with cultural enrichment experiences.

The scholarships are part of the National Security Language Initiative, a federal inter-agency effort to increase the number of Americans mastering critical-need languages. Recipients are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their language skills in their professional careers.

 

Sonia Bajaj

Sonia Bajaj (Click on image to download.)

Bajaj, who was a neuroscience major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a member of the Honors College, will study beginning-level Punjabi at the American Institute of Indian Studies in Chandigarh.

Inspired by her Punjabi heritage and personal interest in the language and culture, Bajaj thinks the experience will benefit her future practice as a physician, both locally and abroad.

“I’m interested in working with at-risk youth, particularly young women, in urban communities,” she said. “Through interactions with women in my host family and community abroad, I hope to glean insights into cultural differences between America and India with respect to women’s health.”

Bajaj, a 2011 graduate of the Illinois Math and Science Academy, will return to UIC in the fall for medical school via UIC’s Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions in medicine. She plans to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology.

Desai, a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dual-degree graduate in neuroscience and philosophy and a former Honors College member, will study beginning-level Hindi at the American Institute of Indian Studies in Jaipur.

 

Jinit Desai

Jinit Desai. Photo: Timothy Nguyen (Click on image to download.)

“I find the language to be beautiful, and I want to understand its usage in film and music,” he said. “More importantly, I want to be able to use Hindi as a physician.”

Desai, a 2011 graduate of Downers Grove North High School, will attend the UIC College of Medicine this fall through the Guaranteed Professional Program Admissions in medicine and participate in UIC’s Global Medicine program. As an undergraduate, he traveled to Chile and Costa Rica for study abroad and volunteer opportunities. His career plans include global health affairs in Latin America and India.

 

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