First Year Student to Spend Summer in Azerbaijan

By Jennifer Anderson '16


Jessie Oehrlein Class of 2016

At Olin, we often seem to
concentrate on nothing but engineering, math, and other skills directly related
to those topic areas, such as business and science. However, there is another
side to engineering--the language aspect. Engineering projects occur all over
the world, not just in English-speaking countries. Jessie Oehrlein is a First
Year Olin student who recently won a highly competitive Critical Language
Scholarship to study in Azerbaijan for several weeks this summer. In this
program, Jessie will have an intensive language concentration, so that by the
end she will be able to communicate with the locals.

Jessie hopes to use her
understanding of this rather obscure language in order to someday work in the oil
and gas industry which is prevalent in ex-Soviet countries such as Azerbaijan.
Often, in the mountain villages where many of these resources lie, only the men
speak English and the women and children can only speak the local dialect.
Thus, knowing Azerbaijani would be a great advantage to facilitating
communication and friendly relations with these people.

Of course, Jessie didn't
apply for this scholarship just for the engineering benefits. In fact, she has
been fascinated with this "...tiny country nine time zones away for 10 years." In
elementary school, her grandfather worked on a pipeline in Azerbaijan, so when
a friend encouraged her to look into this program and she saw Azerbaijan as one
of the options, she decided to apply. The process was much like any other
application, except that it inquired if and how the language would actually be
put to use.

From the whole process,
Jessie learned that it is definitely important to have someone review essays
for applications. Also, that you should speak to the specific topic you are
applying for: show yourself in the correct context, and make a cohesive story
that shows all aspects of you.

As for the summer, Jessie
says that she can't wait to visit Azerbaijan, although she is a little nervous.
But she is most looking forward to reading newspapers in and learning a new
language, living with a host family and learning to cook Azerbaijani food. All
I have to say is that she had better bring back some good recipes and an
excellent understanding of Azerbaijani to try out on her friends at Olin!

Posted in: A Broader World View, Scholarships and Fellowships