It is no secret that one of the most effective ways to learn a new language is through full immersion. Unfortunately, studying languages abroad can be prohibitively expensive. This can be discouraging to language students, but there are scholarships that could cover a portion or entirety of the expenses. For students interested in United States national security, the Boren Awards could be an ideal option.
The Boren Awards are financial grants available to graduate and undergraduate students studying languages of interest to the national security establishment. There is a broad list of languages that qualify, but applicants may suggest others as well. Students must be pursuing a study abroad program in which language learning is a key component. Successful applicants may receive up to $25,000 from the US government. In exchange for the financial assistance, awardees commit to spending at least one year working for the federal government.
Despite heavy competition, applicant requirements are relatively basic. Applicants must be American citizens who hold at least a GED and are enrolled in an accredited degree program. Boren Scholarships are open to undergraduate students and Boren Fellowships to graduate students. There is no required proficiency level. Applicants may be novices or masters of the language if they can show how their proficiency will improve as a result of the program.
Eligible students may complete an application process that includes two short essays. The first should explain how the applicant’s chosen region and language are significant to national security. The second essay is much more personal. Applicants must describe their motivations, career goals, and what they plan on learning during their studies. When the essays are complete the rest of the application is standard. Applicants must submit their previous work history and may include information on their extracurricular activities. Students should include a detailed description of the abroad program they are pursuing. For graduate students pursuing a fellowship, this may include a research proposal. Finally, the application requires at least two, with an optional third, letters of recommendation. The completed application is then evaluated based on various criteria. The first is the desired language’s relevancy to national security. After that, the applicant’s desire to work for the government is evaluated. Finally, the student’s cultural fluency skills and learning aptitude are considered.
A Boren Awards grant certainly is not for everyone. It is a highly competitive process and, once again, successful applicants are bound to work for the federal government for at least a year. Still, the program is a very good option for language students interested in a national security-related career. In addition to the financial benefits, Boren scholars will find they have a great head start on their careers. Awardees are responsible for finding their federal employment, but recipients are highly sought after and have access to an unparalleled network of scholars. In addition to the career benefits, living abroad can be an unmatched opportunity for personal growth. If this sounds appealing, certainly consider filling out an application for the Boren Awards.