Cranston’s Juliana Nguyen awarded prestigious Boren Award to study abroad

Scholarship will support Nguyen’s study of language in Vietnam

KINGSTON, R.I.—May 13, 2024—Juliana Nguyen, of Cranston, is one of four University of Rhode Island students who will travel abroad this summer as a David L. Boren Award recipient. The Boren Awards are a highly selective federal government scholarship program that supports foreign language and cultural study to promote greater understanding between nations.

Nguyen will receive a Boren Scholarship worth up to $25,000 to support her study of Vietnamese, including tuition, travel and room and board in Vietnam.

A first-generation college student, who is majoring in computer science and minoring in business, Nguyen started at URI in fall of 2020 during peak-COVID. While that period was somewhat isolating, she managed to make some friends via Zoom with students who were in her dorm. By the spring semester she had begun working in the Carothers Library and found MakerspaceURI. She later met Keith Ranaldi, director of the URI Library Innovation Labs.

Nguyen grew up speaking Vietnamese and was connected to her culture thanks to her parents and grandmother who had immigrated to the United States—but she always wanted to hone her language skills.

She decided to apply for a Boren Scholarship after a study-abroad experience in South Korea last summer interning at an e-sports company allowed her to utilize her skills conducting outreach to the company’s Vietnamese market.

“I loved Korea. It was an amazing experience and made me realize I wanted to travel more—but also that it was important to me to improve my Vietnamese,” said Nguyen.

She will first travel to Wisconsin in June, where she will undertake intense study of the language at the University of Wisconsin-Madison through mid-August, before departing for Hanoi that same month. Nguyen will stay with a host family in Vietnam while studying at the University of Languages and International Studies, part of the Vietnam National University in Hanoi, through December.

“I feel like this is something that I have always wanted,” said Nguyen. “Growing up, there wasn’t really the opportunity to learn Vietnamese in a more formal classroom setting and I was envious of other people my age who were also first-generation students growing up in a dual language family—that they were able to master the language and achieve true fluency, including reading and writing.”

She credits Ranaldi with connecting her to Kathleen Maher in URI’s Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities. Maher opened her eyes to different scholarship and study abroad opportunities like the Boren, as well as potential career opportunities abroad for someone with her academic background.

Nguyen hopes to be able to use the experience as a springboard to continue her studies—including mastering Spanish, visiting new countries, and potentially exploring a career in government cybersecurity domestically or utilizing her hard skills at a U.S. embassy abroad. 

The David L. Boren Awards are among the most prestigious study abroad awards offered to U.S. college students. The National Security Education Program, a federal initiative to expand the pool of U.S. 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. URI has produced 48 Boren Scholars since the inception of the award program, with 44 being selected since 2010.

URI students interested in applying for the Boren Awards should contact Kathleen Maher, director of the URI Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities, for more information.