As an international relations, economics, and African studies major, I knew early on that I wanted to study abroad in Africa for an extended amount of time. I am also interested in a career in international development and diplomacy with the federal government. So, when I learned about the African Languages Initiative (AFLI), I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to study Swahili in Tanzania.
I selected Swahili because of my interest in East Africa, which is based on classes I have taken at the University of South Florida and my experience as a tutor in a local refugee education program. To study in Tanzania was a natural choice, as it is the origin country of Swahili. I also chose Tanzania because of its growing importance as a leader in the region and for its bilateral relationship with the U.S.
For my fall semester abroad, I enrolled in the AFLI Swahili program at the State University of Zanzibar. I participated in a language intensive program where we went on excursions to cultural sites, lived with host families, and studied all of our electives in Swahili. It was a complete immersion. In the second semester, I moved to Dar es Salaam on the mainland. I participated in language classes and conversation groups while also taking electives on international development and politics at the University of Dar es Salaam.
Before going to Tanzania, I was a novice Swahili speaker. Now I can engage in conversation about most topics and am much more comfortable in my language ability. I am so glad I stayed for the entire year, as I was able to see many different facets of society in Tanzania. After graduation, I hope to return to Tanzania or Kenya and eventually earn an MPA in Development focusing on Africa. Ultimately, I would like to work with USAID to complete my service requirement or work with the State Department on development projects.
My advice for applicants is to do your homework. Read all of the scholar profiles, as well as the tips and tricks for applying, on the Boren website. Do not be afraid to reach out to your school’s writing center, your professors, or university scholarship office for help with your application. And most importantly, pick a country and language that you are genuinely interested in and passionate about.
The Boren Scholarship and my year abroad in Tanzania were the highlight of my undergraduate experience. I am so grateful for this start to my global career.
Written: January 2014