When I heard about the Boren Fellowship, it seemed like the ideal fit for my background and my future goals. I was a graduate student in economics at the University of San Francisco, and I wanted to further develop my Arabic language skills, immerse myself in the local culture, and conduct economic research in North Africa. I thought these experiences would prepare me to start my career as an economist in the U.S. federal government.
I originally planned to study Arabic in Oran, Algeria, but due to the upheaval in North Africa, I ended up in Rabat, Morocco instead. While in Morocco I studied Arabic, and I also conducted research that contributed towards my master’s degree. I worked with very talented Moroccan economists on the impact evaluation of various economic development activities that promote inclusive economic growth and greater opportunities for ordinary Moroccans.
The real learning in Morocco took place outside of the classroom. Being immersed in the local life enabled me to develop a much fuller and meaningful perspective on the various issues facing Morocco. With all that was going on this spring in the Arab world, it was as if I had a front row seat to observe what was happening in this region. I read the “Akhbar al-Yom” newspaper every morning just to get an idea of what information Moroccans were getting. For a different type of cultural experience, I completed a 56-mile ultra-marathon in the mountains of Ifrane, Morocco. The race was both a physical challenge and an opportunity to make lifelong Moroccan friends.
After I graduate, I want to pursue a career as an international economist, in a job that also makes use of my Arabic language skills. Federal service is not entirely new to me. Before I became a Boren Fellow, I received a different fellowship to work with senior State Department officials on a substantial research paper. I also completed a summer internship in the Economic Section of the American Embassy in Moscow. Now, I hope to take on a position with the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, or the Department of Treasury. All of these federal agencies need economists with regional and language expertise in their efforts to promote U.S. national security policy.
I had a wonderful experience on my Boren Fellowship. I thought I would learn Arabic, conduct some research, and learn more about the Moroccan lifestyle, but it has been so much more. I achieved my original language goals, published a piece on Morocco in a foreign policy magazine, and sought out all the opportunities to immerse myself in the Moroccan culture and way of life. Perhaps more than anything, I have also made meaningful personal and professional relationships with people in North Africa that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
Written: September 2011