Morgan Burdick, class of 2017, received a Critical Language Scholarship from the US Department of State to study Punjabi in India this summer. The Social Work student, who is already proficient in Spanish, Urdu, and Hindi, sees a critical need for social workers to understand and be familiar with the languages and cultures of immigrants and refugees in the Seattle area.
Although Burdick knew Spanish before coming to Seattle University, she grew interested in expanding her language skills when she volunteered at Global to Local. The local nonprofit seeks to improve individual and community health outcomes in underserved communities in South King County where many of the residents speak Spanish. A significant number though are immigrants and refugees from India and Nepal, and few social service providers in South Seattle are familiar not only with their languages but their cultures.
Burdick saw a need to improve communication between those providing services and their target populations. In 2014, she traveled to Lucknow, India, to learn Urdu on her first US State Department Critical Language Scholarship.
Desiring to further her regional and linguistic knowledge, she stayed in the region to work with Support Trust, which provides women’s health services in northern India.
“When the floods hit, we shifted into disaster relief,” Burdick recalled. “Babies were being born; people where having heart attacks. We delivered food, medicine, and blankets in addition to setting up vaccination sites to protect people from water-borne illnesses.”
Months later, she was off to Nepal to teach English to girls ages 4 to 12 in a girls boarding school in Simikot, where the students came from isolated, extremely poor rural areas in the northwest part of Nepal. She was joined by Carson Tidyman, class of 2015.
“I was surprised at how much I enjoyed working with the girls and how excited they were to be to learning English,” Burdick said. “Because much of the teaching in Nepal is by rote, I had a lot of fun introducing games and more interactive learning. I even taught computer science and gym classes.”
She was soon proficient in Urdu and Hindi in addition to Spanish. After studying Farsi in Seattle, she returned to Lucknow on a 9-month Boren Scholarship to further her language studies in Urdu. On June 7, she traveled to India to study Punjabi on her second Critical Language Scholarship.
Burdick returns to Seattle in September to begin her 9-month Social Work practicum at API Chaya, a nonprofit that focuses on human trafficking and violence against women, particularly Asian Pacific Islander populations. When she graduates in June 2017, she plans to continue to use her language skills working with immigrant and refugee populations are often underserved.