2005 Boren Scholarships
University of Arkansas
I’m originally from Arkansas and studied in Chengdu, China for an academic year. One of the reasons I decided on that particular area of China is because it is slightly off the beaten path. I wanted to study in a place where there would be few foreigners because I thought it would be good for language acquisition.
My life in China was very fulfilling. In a typical day, I would go to Chinese class for four hours in the morning, have lunch near campus with a friend, and in the afternoon I had other classes. I took a Chinese government class, a Chinese culture class, and, as a fun one, I took a class on Chinese cuisine. I had really gotten used to some of the local food and was interested in learning how to cook it since I knew I would have a hard time finding it when I got back to Arkansas.
As an extracurricular activity, I participated in something called “The English Corner.” I would stand in the middle of the square and random students would come to practice their English with me. I could understand because I would seek out people to practice my Chinese, and participating in “The English Corner” helped me make Chinese friends. We would go to the movies, I got invited to people’s houses, and it was a really good experience overall.
My Boren experience affected my language skills in a dynamic way. Nothing can compare to the year that I spent there, particularly my second semester when I lived with a host family. In the first semester, I lived around other Americans and Europeans and, even though my Chinese improved, it was not as good as I wanted it to be. During my second semester, although both of my host parents did speak English, I specifically asked them not to because I really wanted to work on my language skills. It was a great experience.
Since my Boren Scholarship ended, I have completed my degree at the University of Arkansas and received master’s degrees from Seton Hall University in Asian studies, and diplomacy and international relations. Last summer, I did an internship in Taiwan with the Department of State.
If I could give advice to applicants for the Boren Scholarship, I would tell them to be honest and to make sure they tap into the life experiences that motivated them to study overseas. I also suggest that applicants make friends in their institutions’ international programs offices, since the staff can really help them edit their applications.
A couple of years before I applied for the Boren Scholarship, going to China seemed like a farfetched idea. It was a little overwhelming at times since I was the only one from my school and I was far away by myself. However, I decided that it was more important for me to learn this language and to develop into a global citizen. I definitely appreciate the Boren Scholarship for giving me that opportunity.
Written: September 2010