KINGSTON, R.I. – May 3, 2021 – Three University of Rhode Island students have won prestigious Boren Awards to study foreign languages abroad.
Adriana Wilding, a URI graduate student from Scituate studying international relations, has been awarded a Boren Fellowship worth up to $25,000. Wilding will travel to Azerbaijan to study intensive Turkish through the Boren’s Turkish Flagship Language Institute. Juniors, Kate Dubois and Kaylee Goyette, both from North Smithfield and participants in the International Studies and Diplomacy and Chinese Language Flagship Programs, have each been awarded a Boren Scholarship worth up to $25,000. They will travel to Taiwan to study Mandarin.
Jack Eustis, a sophomore, has been named an alternate for the Boren Scholarship, while graduate student Becca Sock has been named an alternate for the Boren Fellowship.
The David L. Boren Awards are among the most prestigious study abroad awards offered to American college students. The National Security Education Program, a federal initiative to expand the pool of American citizens with foreign language and international skills, sponsors the awards. In exchange for funding, recipients agree to work for the federal government for at least one year. Since 2011, 27 URI students have received a Boren Award.
A 2019 URI graduate, Adriana Wilding majored in political science, applied economics and business administration/finance as an undergraduate, earning three degrees. She studied the Caucasus region, which borders Eastern Europe and Western Asia and includes Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and southern parts of Russia, extensively as an undergraduate in political science. With her interest in travel and her desire to work in international rural economic development, applying for the Boren Fellowship made sense.
“The ability to speak a second language – especially one that is not commonly spoken in the U.S. – is so crucial,” said Wilding. “I researched this region and the relationship of this region to Russia and how that impacts the U.S. throughout my time as an undergraduate and knew that in order to reach the next level in terms of my career and to be able to conduct any type of worthwhile research, it would be important for me to communicate with the local population.”
However, Wilding begins her fellowship with zero knowledge of the Turkish language. She begins her fellowship in June with an intensive virtual eight-week summer program hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison to ensure an appropriate level of proficiency with the language before leaving for Azerbaijan University of Languages in Baku. In the spring, after six months of studying Turkish, Wilding hopes to intern with a government agency or nonprofit involved in rural economic development or economic policy development, which would help to further her career plans.
“The end goal for me would be to work in foreign service with USAID working on economic development and hopefully returning to Azerbaijan with a different perspective,” said Wilding. “But one of the biggest things I am looking forward to right now is just staying with a family and getting to know the culture and explore.”
Kate Dubois and Kaylee Goyette, who have been friends since the second grade, will leave for National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan in August. While they are required to study abroad their senior year as part of the Chinese Language Flagship Program, their reasons for applying for the Boren Scholarship and their career goals are quite different.
Born in Korea and adopted as an infant, Kate Dubois has always been interested in languages and how people communicate. Initially drawn to the Chinese Language Flagship Program because she thought she wanted to pursue a career with the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer, she came to realize she is much more interested in law. Given that the Boren requires recipients to commit one year following graduation to working in public service, Dubois saw it as a perfect way to start her career after she graduates.
“For me it really just fit,” said Dubois. “I’m interested in working in the government after graduation, eventually as an attorney. The Boren scholarship in addition to offering funding toward the study abroad program, provides an opportunity to jumpstart my career in the federal government, because those jobs are often really competitive and hard to come by.”
Dubois plans to take the LSAT in the fall while in Taiwan. She is particularly interested in international and human rights law. During the spring semester, Dubois hopes to intern with the Hu Fu Center for East Asia Democratic Studies, which has a long history studying the mechanisms and processes of authoritarian transition and democratization in the region, particularly in attitudes toward democracy, human rights, political values and economic reforms.
While mindful of the positive impact of the program on her career plans, Dubois is also very enthusiastic about the experience ahead of her. She says, “I’m also just looking forward to being able to use my Mandarin, that I’ve been developing these past three years in a classroom setting with other native speakers – to be able to really test myself and my language skills, to learn more about their culture and their education system – and, hopefully, make lots of friends.”
Kaylee Goyette realized she had a passion for languages during high school Spanish. “It’s so rewarding to be able to speak to another person in their native language,” she said. “You can learn so much about them – especially when you don’t have that language barrier to cross.” However, she came to URI undecided as to what she would major in and took a little longer to figure it out.
Adopted at 11 months old from China, once she arrived at URI she saw the Chinese Language Flagship Program as a way to reconnect to her heritage and learn more about the Chinese language and culture and decided this was one way she could channel her passion. After she joined the program, she thought it made sense to pair it with International Studies and Diplomacy.
Goyette applied for the Boren Scholarship not only for the financial assistance and the opportunity to study abroad, but also because the program meshes with her international studies major. While not yet completely settled on what she wants to do long term, she is leaning toward working in international adoption and hopes to intern in the spring with either a governmental or nonprofit organization, or an adoption agency. She is excited about exploring these areas of interest overseas and gaining a year of experience in the federal government when she returns and sees this as an opportunity to find something she is 100% committed to.
“I’m open to new possibilities. I’m interested to learn more about Taiwan and their customs and am looking forward to gaining new friends and meeting new people that I can speak with in Chinese,” said Goyette. “There is so much opportunity out there and so many options that are open as a result of this program – and then the ability to give back by spending a year in federal service is so worthwhile. I think it will be a great experience.”
URI students interested in applying for the Boren Awards should contact the URI Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities for more information.