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Boren Language Awards: Why you should consider applying

Augsburg’s URGO and Study Abroad/Away offices encourage students to apply for the Boren Language Awards. Scholarships up to $25,000 are awarded to students to build proficiency in a wide range of critical languages, including Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, and 60 other languages. Students are also expected to immerse themselves in the culture whose language they choose to study. Additionally, Boren alumni are expected to apply their knowledge to public service by working for at least one year with the federal government including the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security and USAID.

Advice from Andrea Dvorak, Assistant Director of Augsburg’s Center for Global Education

What are the benefits of applying for a Boren scholarship?

There are a number of great benefits! First of course is the opportunity to build some serious 2nd language skills – these can really be critical in many fields in your future. Second is the money! Winning a Boren Scholarship means potentially removing any worries about the cost of a study abroad experience. Third is the “plus sign” you get in Federal government work – these jobs have great pay and benefits, and can mean a world of professional opportunities, even after your service period is over, either inside or outside the government. Finally, just putting in the time and effort to writing a Boren application, refining and clarifying your thoughts in a succinct and persuasive way, is great practice for grad school and fellowship applications, even jobs! 

Want to know how to get started with Boren? 

There are lots of great resources at Augsburg for students interested in Boren! For example, check out the Zoom recorded info session we hosted in Fall 2020 with a Boren representative. Another place to start is the Boren scholarship website, where you can learn more about which languages are approved, essay questions and tips on applying, and the kinds of federal jobs you can apply for afterward. Another great resource is the Study Abroad/Away office staff – they can help you identify programs abroad that meet the Boren requirements. You can make an appointment with the staff or just send your question to abroad@augsburg.edu. Finally, staff in URGO can assist with your essays to make your application as strong as possible by contacting them at urgo@augsburg.edu. Remember that Augsburg has an internal deadline for undergraduate applications of  January 20th, 2021. Submitting by this date ensures that staff from Study Abroad/Away and URGO will have time to review your essays for feedback. The national deadline is February 3rd, 2021. For more information, visit Boren’s website.

 

An Auggie’s Boren Experience

Every Boren experience looks incredibly different depending on the language and program a student applies for. One program we can offer a closer look at comes from Shamsa Ahmed, a senior at Augsburg who completed her Boren experience in the fall of 2019. In an interview with our office, Shamsa offers a look into her application process and advice for those thinking of applying.

What Boren scholarship did you receive?

I got the Boren Scholarship for the African Languages Flagship Initiative (AFLI) which is a language study program. The language I chose was Kiswahili and we had a 4-month intensive language training in Arusha, Tanzania, with 2 months prior at the University of Florida. I applied my sophomore year with the help of URGO and ended up getting it!

Why did you choose to apply for Boren?

I chose to apply for Boren because I wanted to reconnect with Swahil, which I had forgotten since I came to America. I also want to work in East Africa in the future and knew this was a great place to start.

What are your future goals and how does your experience with Boren play a role in those plans?

I want to pursue a career in peace building and conflict resolution in East Africa. One of the languages of the African Union is Swahili, which my Boren was necessary for. I would also like to work with USAID for my year of service.

What was your favorite part of your Boren experience in Tanzania?

My ultimate highlight was definitely living with my host family. I was blessed with an amazing host mother and siblings; I truly felt so welcomed in the country and at home. My host siblings became my first friends, and they helped me get over a lot of bumps in the first few weeks!

Was the language training effective? How fluent did you become and is that fluency still intact?

I think the training was really effective. Starting 2 months in Florida prior to going to Tanzania was really helpful. This helped us be familiar with the language and learn the basics. When we arrived in Tanzania, there was really no way of escaping the language because it is everywhere. We had a language pledge which meant we couldn’t speak English at all whether we were at school or home. None of the staff of the school we allowed to speak to us in English. I placed one step under fluency which is really amazing considering only learning the language for 6 months.

What did you study beyond Swahili while in Tanzania?

Beyond Swahili, I was really immersed in the community. I tried to really seek out my own cultural excursions outside of the program. I helped at a cafe which served students with disabilities. I also went to the villages of friends and other host families.

Why should students apply for Boren? What pieces of advice would you give an applicant and a recipient of the award?

I believe students should apply for Boren because it is a wonderful opportunity to learn a language and immerse yourself in cultures unknown to you. I want to urge more students of color to apply for programs like these because they severely lack people like us. If we don’t go after programs like these, we will never be able to have the same opportunities.