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FAQ

What is PIRE?

PIRE (short for Partnerships in International Research and Education) is a National Science Foundation (NSF) program that seeks to financially support research requiring international collaboration. Our PIRE program affords us the opportunity to send members (undergraduate/graduate students and post-doctoral fellows) from the Center of Language Science (CLS) to conduct research abroad at several international sites. View our Research Partners list to learn more about our domestic and international PIRE partners.

What kind of research is done through PIRE?

PIRE research is closely tied to the work of the CLS, an interdisciplinary group of language scientists. CLS researchers investigate a broad array of topics including language processing, bilingualism, first and second language acquisition, language use, and language disorders. Students have the opportunity to conduct research abroad focusing on one of these topics. You can visit the CLS website to find out more about our research.

Who can apply?

Undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows are eligible to apply for PIRE funding. 

When do students usually go abroad, and how long is the experience?

Undergraduate students are allowed to go during the summer. Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are able to go either during the summer or during the regular semester, depending on their duties and commitments.

The start and end time depends on where the student is going, but typically students spend between 7 and 8 weeks abroad.

Are expenses covered? Where would I be living?

Yes, all research expenses are covered (expenses cannot exceed the PIRE budgeted amounts). These expenses include airfare, lodging, meals and incidentals, and research expenses. For undergraduates, summer tuition and fees are also covered.  For graduate students, your stipend and tuition area also covered (if you are traveling during the Fall or Spring semester). 

Lodging differs by site, but PIRE fellows tend to live in dorms and apartments. Lodging is arranged by faculty advisers and PIRE staff in collaboration with the partners at each site.

I am interested in applying for PIRE, but I have no previous research experience and have never taken a class on language, bilingualism, or any related topics. Can I still apply?

Yes! All students are encouraged to apply regardless of their research background and/or major.

If you are an undergraduate student and are interested in applying for the summer, visit the CLS website to review the research being conducted by the faculty. Feel free to contact CLS faculty members to find out more about what they are doing and to express your interest in participating.

When you officially apply for PIRE, you will have spent two semesters working with a lab. This will give you plenty of time to prepare a proposal in close collaboration with your adviser.

How do I gain research experience with the CLS?

Once you join one of our labs, there are many things you can do to gain research experience and prepare to apply for a PIRE fellowship. Here are some ideas for how to get started:

  • Attend any of the weekly lab meetings your lab conducts.
  • Attend the CLS weekly meetings, every Friday from 9:00-10:30 in Moore 127.
  • Join the CLS listserv for information on Friday meetings, visiting lecturers, and all events related to the CLS! (Email cls.lab.managers@psu.edu to sign up.)
  • Enroll in classes related to the study of language. These can include classes offered through the Linguistics (including the Spanish and German Linguistics) Programs, Communication Science and Disorders, and Cognitive Psychology.

Do I need to have a research idea or project before contacting a CLS faculty member?

You do not need to have a specific research idea or project in advance. Once you become part of a CLS lab, you will have plenty of opportunities to discuss ideas with your adviser throughout the semester(s).

I am interested in applying, but will be graduating within the next year. Is this a problem?

Unfortunately, this makes you ineligible for PIRE. In order to apply, you will first need to complete research experience with a CLS research faculty member for at least one year (two semesters) before your research trip begins. You are also required to have at least one semester in residence remaining at PSU after returning from PIRE in the summer.

Do I need to be a US citizen in order to apply?

Both US citizens and non-US citizens are eligible to apply for PIRE (the latter must be in the College of Liberal Arts).

How is placement at sites determined? Does everyone have to go to a different site?

Placement is determined by the research question students decide to investigate as well as the type of population they want to study. In planning the project with your CLS faculty adviser, be sure to justify the need to do the research abroad vs. here.

Although sending everyone to a different site is not one of our main criteria for selecting students, when possible we try to distribute the number of students equally across the different PIRE sites.

Are classes required? Can I receive study abroad credits?

There are no classes to attend while you are abroad. However, you must register for 6 credits of LING 496 (research experience) in the summer semester that you are abroad. These are not study abroad credits, however, and they count only as research credits.

It is important to note that students are also required to write weekly blogs while abroad, in which they discuss their overall experience.

Will I be on my own during the research abroad experience?

No! You will be working directly with our national/international partners and other students. Both partners and graduate students can serve as mentors. We know the partners very well because we have collaborated with them and have visited them on multiple occasions.

While abroad you will be teamed up with a graduate student from Penn State who has research experience and possibly experience at your site. There may be instances when you can travel together or live together, depending on the sites chosen and the timing of your visit.

It is also important to note that your Penn State CLS faculty adviser will be in contact with you throughout the summer.

Do I need to be proficient in the language of the country I will be in?

No, you do not need to be proficient in the language of the country you will be visiting. The main goal of the travel abroad is for you to conduct research and gain research experience.

However, we encourage PIRE fellows to use the opportunity to learn about the country’s language and culture as much as possible. Visiting another country can be one of the most rewarding experiences, and learning something about the language and culture will help you appreciate this even more!

If you are interested in learning a little bit about the language beforehand, you can enroll in or audit language courses at PSU in the Fall or Spring.

What are the required application materials?

To apply for PIRE, you will need to fill out an application on Penn State’s Education Abroad website (which you can access here). Your application will include a personal statement describing your research project and how the experience will enhance your career goals. You will also need to submit a Curriculum Vitae (CV). Additionally, your CLS faculty adviser will need to submit a letter of recommendation to pire2undergrads@gmail.com.

How do I start with writing my statement for the application?

The answer to this will primarily depend on your interaction with your CLS faculty adviser. Make sure to meet with him or her regularly so that you can work together on every step of the process.

Think about the research questions you would like to answer, and about how conducting the research abroad will help you answer them.

When is the application deadline?

The deadline for summer 2018 travel is December 1, 2017. Applicants are generally notified between 1 and 2 weeks after the deadline.

What am I required to do when I return from PIRE travel?

Undergraduate students will be required to present preliminary findings at PSUxLING and the Young Language Science Speaker Series poster sessions, present their findings during the CLS Distinguished Speaker Series, and submit a written report of findings and experience. Graduate students will be required to present preliminary research findings during the CLS Distinguished Speaker Series, submit a written report of findings and experience, and works towards publication.