2012 Boren Scholarships
California State University, East Bay
I took some community college courses in the 70’s, but dropped out before finishing. In 2007, I went back to community college. This time, as a nontraditional student, I had far more focus. I needed to build a strong academic record so that I could transfer and earn my undergraduate degree. Once I transferred to California State University, East Bay, I gained a new vision for what I might be able to accomplish. My professors and advisors urged me to consider a study abroad program as part of my degree. It made sense. I saw that travel and study abroad could enhance my overall educational experience and strengthen my growing desire to use language skills to augment a new career direction.
I heard about the Boren Scholarship through the Center for International Education at my university, where I was encouraged to apply for a Boren Scholarship in order to participate in the African Languages Initiative Program for Swahili. My advisors were aware that my family and I had spent 12 years living and working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), and that I was looking for a way to dovetail those experiences with my present educational goals. Applying for the Boren Scholarship and the African Languages Initiative in Zanzibar, Tanzania seemed like a great opportunity to merge past experiences with future goals.
The Swahili courses I am taking have immersed me deeply into four major components of language learning: speaking, reading, comprehension, and writing. In each of these areas I am being challenged to push my language learning to new levels, with the goal of becoming as proficient as possible. Daily classes are supplemented with language partner meetings, one-on-one mentoring, and small tutorial classes. I am also taking an additional course on the culture, customs, and lifestyle of the Swahili-speaking people of Zanzibar. This has increased the scope of my studies and given me the opportunity to learn additional vocabulary and grammar.
One aspect of the program that has particularly helpful to learning is its emphasis on language and cultural immersion. In addition to the courses at the university, I live with a local Zanzibari family, with whom I speak with and otherwise interact with every day. There is little room to retreat into English language, so my energies are focused on rapid learning of language and culture.
I am very grateful to the Boren Scholarship for giving me the opportunity to study here in Zanzibar. I consider it a privilege to participate in this program, and I am hoping to make the most of it now, and in the future. I hope to fulfill the service requirement in international development and I am particularly interested in projects in East or Central Africa through the U.S. Agency for International Development.
I would give future applicants the following advice: No matter who you are or where you are in life, don’t be afraid to set goals and see a new vision for what you can do. Boren can help you accomplish it!
Written: December 2011