Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Bess

USC students win foreign language scholarships

Studying abroad is common experience for USC students, but for four Boren Scholarship recipients, this experience will put them on a path to careers in public service. 

The Boren Scholarship is a national program funded by the National Security Education Program, a federal initiative that seeks to encourage U.S. citizens to develop better foreign language and international skills. The program sponsors college students to go abroad and learn the language of countries who are important to the security and stability of the U.S. After coming back, the students go to work for the federal government and use their skills and knowledge gained overseas to benefit the country.

Fifty-one USC students have received this award in its history. This year, four students from USC are the beneficiaries of Boren. Some will spend the next semester abroad, others the whole 2018-2019 school year, in preparation for their work for the government.

Michelle Atwood, a fourth-year international studies student, is about to embark on her year-long trip to Japan. Because her mother is Japanese, Atwood has casually spoken the language her whole life, though she has only taken formal Japanese classes in college. 

"Japanese is kind of a complicated language, just because it has three alphabets, but I like the challenge,” said Atwood.

As an executive in Silver Wings, a service organization on campus that is associated with the Air Force ROTC program, Atwood is interested in national security and diplomacy. She hopes to find a position in the State Department after graduating in May.

Studying abroad is giving Atwood the opportunity to take classes important to her career path that are not offered at USC.

“I’m an international studies major here at USC, and I wanted an East Asian focus, but unfortunately they have very limited class options for that,” said Atwood. “That’s what I'm most excited about, just learning more about their politics and international relations.” 

This will be Katie Rose Dionne’s third time in China. She has previously spent a gap year in Beijing. For this trip she will stay in Hong Kong, but plains to travel often. One definite destination is to visit her former host family, who first introduced her to true Chinese culture.

“I’ve always had a strong interest in the Chinese culture. I grew up watching a lot of different martial arts movies, like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, and I love Chinese food,” said Dionne, “[Studying abroad] is really great because I got to see what their daily life is like."

Dionne wishes to use her opportunity with the Boren program to work in the State or Commerce departments to create trade policies for international businesses.

In addition to the Boren program, two students have received awards through the South Asian Flagship Language Initiative. This opportunity allows recipients to learn a language that is uncommonly studied yet important to U.S. foreign relations.

Anna Sheppard, a third-year public health student and Adrianna Bowman, a fourth-year economics student, will soon leave for India. Sheppard is studying Urdu and Bowman will study Hindi. The pair had no previous experience with the languages and are taking extensive courses in preparation to be immersed into a foreign country.

Sheppard is using Boren to forward her passion for service. She is a member of Omega Phi Alpha, a service sorority, and regularly works with Carolina Survivors Clinic, a refugee organization. 

“Urdu is a language that is spoken mostly ... among Muslim-Indians ... because there is such a strong sense of Hindi nationalism tied to religion and nationality, Muslim-Indians are treated like a minority, similar to how they are in the United States,” said Sheppard.

Bowman is also going to India, but is learning Hindi, the official language of the county. To help her learn Hindi, she has started watching Bollywood movies to feel comfortable speaking the language. Bowman will stay the full year in India, and plans to travel throughout the country.

“[India is] a pretty large democracy in the area of the world that doesn't have a lot of democracies. Their economy is growing but it’s not sustainable ... It’s interesting how it's growing at such a pace that it can’t keep up,” Bowman said about her future host country. 

In addition to economics, Bowman hopes to become an ambassador and has interests in national security. Her goal is to use her experience with the economy of India to help the United States in trade.

All four women are excited for their adventures.They all agreed they'd missing their friends and the USC campus, especially the Horseshoe, but are excited to discover new opportunities overseas.



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