Students earn scholarships to study in China, Turkey

Jessica Valsi and Rochelle Beiersdorfer are the first Youngstown State University students ever to receive the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.

Rochelle Beiersdorfer and Jessica Valsi received the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, making them YSU Student Success Stories.

Rochelle Beiersdorfer, left, and Jessica Valsi

Both students will travel overseas for two months this summer – Valsi to Turkey and Beiersdorfer to China – for intensive studies in Turkish and Mandarin Chinese, respectively.

“I’m excited about going and honored to receive this scholarship,” said Beiersdorfer, a YSU junior majoring in philosophy.

“Turkey is a fascinating place,” said Valsi, a senior political science major at YSU. “I am looking forward to the experience.”

The Critical Language Scholarship Program is part of the U.S. government’s effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Only about 5 percent of applicants are selected to participate. Students spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language study.

Valsi, a 2007 graduate of Niles McKinley High School, will study at the Tomer Institute in Bursa, Turkey. Beiersdorfer, a 2010 graduate of McDonald High School, will study at Beijing Culture and Language University. Students live with host families and are expected to completely immerse themselves in the language and culture.

Both YSU students will be visiting their countries for the second time. Valsi was in Istanbul, Turkey, during spring semester 2011 as a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. Beiersdorfer was in China in 2009 with her family. Her father is Ray Beiersdorfer, YSU professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences, who leads frequent faculty-led study abroad programs throughout China.

For more information on study abroad opportunities at YSU, visit the YSU Center for International Studies and Programs website, or email