Tim Simmons’ decision to pursue study abroad in Serbia started with an interest in his family heritage which can be traced to that area, and the idea of embarking on a unique experience to this little known region seemed like a challenge worth undertaking. It was this decision that put him on a path that led him from the far reaches of the Balkans to his current position as a policy analyst with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), working on issues related to U.S. immigration policy.
Tim describes his experience in Serbia as “one of the greatest in my life.” He arrived in the country with only a basic understanding of the language, matriculated into the Faculty of Economics at the University of Belgrade, and attended classes on international economics taught entirely in Serbian. With the help of roommates, teachers and friends, Tim experienced total and rapid immersion into Serbian culture which helped him adapt quickly and develop near fluency in Serbian the year he was there. “One of the most valuable assets I gained from my experience was a new way of thinking when it comes to different and opposing perspectives.”
While Tim had an interest in public service prior to winning the Boren Scholarship, he found that the reputation of Boren Awardees within the DHS gave him an advantage in a competitive government job market. His first position was as an assistant and immigration analyst with U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services where he assisted asylum applicants and their attorneys, liaised with congressional staff on specific case-related topics, performed security checks on asylum cases, and processed credible and reasonable fear asylum claims. One of his most noteworthy experiences to date was processing asylum claims on the southwest border. Due to the surge of migrants in 2014, USCIS sent teams of individuals to the border to work on asylum cases in detention facilities. “It was interesting to carry out the work in such a setting and to assist the government at such a critical time.” In his current position, he continues to work on issues relating to U.S. immigration policy including the administration of immigration benefits, enforcement of immigration laws, visa policy, international human rights issues, and global migration issues at large.