2011 Boren Scholarships
George Washington University
Poland is in many ways, both geographical and political, at the very crux of European policy toward its Eastern European neighbors. Living and studying in Warsaw as a 2010 Boren Scholar gave me a vantage point on the discussions happening there.
Along with taking advanced language classes at the University of Warsaw, I also took coursework focused on European integration from the Polish perspective. In addition, I started writing from an American’s perspective for regional newspapers and magazines including Ukrainskyi Tyzhden, Kyiv Post, Krakow Post, and Business Ukraine. I also wrote for Newsweek International.
At the beginning, I just wanted to get in the door and brush shoulders with political leaders, scholars and journalists I had long admired from a distance. I managed to accomplish much more than that. I interviewed Jaroslaw Kaczynski nearly a year after his brother's death in the tragic presidential plane crash at Smolensk; Viktor Yushchenko, the former President of the Ukraine; and Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of the Ukraine.
I am consistently amazed by how learning a foreign language has transformed my thinking and my writing. My Boren Scholarship equipped me with the language skills I needed to ask the right questions. It also allowed me to venture beyond the English-language wire reports and press releases to write my articles. Thanks to my training, I was able to offer readers something unique and, I hope, something fairly insightful. In return, I got to interview political leaders and some top-notch thinkers. I also got to travel from the world's biggest statue of Jesus in the small town Swiebodzin to parliamentary elections in the capital of Moldova.
During my Boren Scholarship, I became acquainted with a Polish professor at the Catholic University of Lublin after he sent me a politely scathing critique of an article I wrote. Now, I'm co-editing a book on global foreign policy toward Moldova with him. The book is going to incorporate eighteen authors of different nationalities, from Chinese to Russian to Romanian. It's these kinds of multilingual conversations that lie at the heart of international understanding. I really enjoy being able to interact with authors with so many different viewpoints on a subject I'm passionate about. After completing graduate school, I plan to pursue a career in the Foreign Service. I believe journalism is an excellent training ground for the kinds of critical thinking and social skills needed for meaningful government service.
Written: November 2011