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Meet Claudia S. Herrero Rapagna, recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program and Critical Language Scholarship

May 22, 2024

In May we asked Claudia S. Herrero Rapagna, who received both a U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program award 2024-25 and a federally-funded Critical Language Scholarship Summer 2024, about her experience in our two-year master’s degree program and her upcoming research and language training following her June 2024 graduation in Middle East Studies. In June, she heads to Nizwa, Oman, for the two-month U.S. Critical Language Scholarship to study Arabic. Then in September she will be based in Amman, Jordan, on a 10-month Fulbright Teaching Assistantship. Her hometown is Toa Alta, Puerto Rico.

Claudia S. Herrero Rapagna headshot

Claudia S. Herrero Rapagna

How did you decide to pursue your master’s degree at the Jackson School?
I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Middle East Studies in the Jackson School because I wanted to focus on my language skills and area of study. I received my bachelor’s in Public Service and Global Affairs from Gannon University and I want to narrow my studies and focus on learning about the communities, politics, conflicts, people, and languages of the Middle Eastern region.

What inspired you to apply for Fulbright and Critical Language Scholarships?
I applied for these scholarships because I want to experience teaching and learning in a classroom abroad. As a Middle East Studies graduate student, I think exposure to Arabic-speaking communities is vital for attaining language fluency and contextualizing Middle Eastern scholarship. I have been studying Arabic for almost five years and I want to dedicate time to focus on learning Arabic dialects used in day-to-day life. I also want to continue developing my teaching skills by supporting English language attainment programs. Language is an incredibly power tool that allows us to create connections with other communities and cultures. Through my language and teaching journey, I want to inspire others to find different ways to create connections and learn from each other.

How will you be spending your time as a Fulbright Scholar?
For my Fulbright award, I will be supporting English teachers in a U.S. embassy sponsored program or a Jordanian Public university or institution in Amman, Jordan. I haven’t received my placements yet, so I am not sure what program I will be supporting.

Key skills from the Jackson School you’ll take with you in your career?
Networking and connecting with people are great skills I learned in graduate school. Although for the most part graduate students work on their individual projects and research, creating connection with your peers is incredibly valuable as you can learn from peoples’ experiences about diverse career paths and opportunities. The Jackson school has encouraged me to create a circle of professionals that inspire and support me in my next steps.

What were the most impactful learning experiences you have had as a M.A. student?
One of the most impactful learning experiences I have had as a master’s student has been understanding all the learning and unlearning that occurs in a classroom and throughout research. Sometimes students, like myself, come into graduate programs with assumptions or preconceived notions of their field of study, but once you are immersed in learning, grad school challenges our thinking and expands our points of view. This has been one of the most impactful experiences I had, because it prepares you to think outside the box and produce thoughtful contributions.

Advice to prospective M.A. students about advantages of the Jackson School?
The Jackson school has great faculty who have remarkable professional trajectories and are well connected. I would advise prospective graduates to reach out to faculty and professors because they are more than happy to support you and connect you with resources. All opportunities start with taking a first step!

Herrero Rapagna was one of two Jackson School students out of 13 at the University of Washington this spring to be awarded a Fulbright scholarship for exchange, research and teaching around the world in 2024-25. She was also awarded a U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), which is a scholarship to spend eight to 10 weeks in the summer learning one of 13 languages at an intensive study abroad institute.