It’s not the romance languages of French or Italian or Spanish that pique the interest of three West Virginia University students.
Instead, it’s the less commonly taught languages like Portuguese or Arabic that have led Hayley Harman, Franklin Roberts and Colin Lopez to be named the University’s 10th, 11th and 12th Boren Scholars.
The trio will all travel this upcoming school year as part of the 2015 Boren Scholarship, which enables undergraduate students to study abroad in underrepresented areas of the world and learn the appropriate languages.
More than 750 undergraduates applied for the scholarship, funded by the National Security Education Program, that selects students to travel to areas critical to United States interests and national security.
“The ASPIRE Office is thrilled that we have three Boren Scholars this year,” said Cate Johnson, the program coordinator for ASPIRE. “It is a testament to the talented student population we have at WVU and the quality instruction and advising they get from our great faculty.” ASPIRE helps students apply for nationally competitive scholarships like the Boren.
“Hayley, Colin, and Franklin make us proud and we are excited to follow them on their journeys abroad next year,” Johnson said.
Biology to figure out what is happening physically; psychology to figure out what is happening mentally; Spanish to communicate more effectively to more people.
The pre-med junior decided to expand on that language bit and add Portuguese to her skillset when she travels to Mozambique as part of the Boren Scholarship.
She is participating in the African Flagship Languages Initiative, a special program with Boren, to encourage students to study African languages and will travel to the University of Florida in Gainesville this summer for intensive Portuguese study before heading out of country.
“I have studied Spanish since middle school,” the Morgantown native said. “So, I’m hoping my background will aid in learning Portuguese some. I think since so many places speak Portuguese – Portugal, of course, and African countries, like Angola – it will be beneficial and realistically useful for me.”
While expanding her foreign language comprehension, Harman also hopes to broaden her biology knowledge by learning how medicine functions in Mozambique.
“There is a high prevalence of AIDS in Mozambique, and as part of the scholarship, I’m hoping to intern with the local hospital to see how they facilitate health care,” Harman said. “I’m interested in learning how different cultures handle medical treatment, and while I’m not dedicated to one area of medicine yet, I appreciate learning all fields.”
As for psychology, she said is excited to leave the country for the first time to experience a new culture and gain an understanding only accessible by immersion.
“I hope the critical exposure will help me better understand myself and gain a new appreciation for difference cultures,” she said. “To grow and experience life in another culture is sure to be a learning experience that will be beneficial in all facets of my studies – biology, psychology and Spanish.”
As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, Lopez didn’t have an understanding of Arabic culture.
He had been born near Toronto, Canada, moved to Texas, then the Carolinas, and then Pennsylvania. But it wasn’t until Lopez made a friend with a Palestinian cultural background that he realized he wanted to learn more.
“When we became really close, I realized I knew nothing about Arabic, and there was this ignorance I wanted to overcome,” Lopez said. “So, I wanted to try out Arabic and took night classes in the Mountainlair to learn. Then, I committed my studies to it, too, and enrolled in Arabic classes.”
Fast-forward a few years, and the international studies major is traveling to Jordan where he will study Arabic for two semesters.
“Jordan is right in the middle of all the turmoil in the Middle East, and it houses millions of refugees. I want to study Arabic and volunteer with refugee health camps to learn about global health and contribute down the road,” Lopez said.
Lopez, who is pre-med, plans to work in the field of global health upon graduation. He has traveled with the WVU chapter of the Global Medical Brigades to Honduras and interned with the Global Brigades group in Panama and hopes to continue learning – through first-person experiences – about different areas of the world.
“I’ve always been interested in medicine in general, and after I took a year off from college to work at Ruby Memorial Hospital, I was able to focus on why I was interested – and I knew I wanted to expand to learn about healthcare around the globe,” Lopez said.
“A part of being involved in global health is being able to connect with as many people as possible, and those connections can only happen if there is communication. I am familiar with Spanish, but I’m continuing to improve with my Arabic – just taking it one step at a time and continue trying to connect through these languages with as many people around the world as I can.”
Roberts is getting a head start on his lifelong trip around the world.
Roberts will be traveling to Mozambique to study Portuguese along with Harman as part of the African Flagship Languages Initiative, a special program inside the Boren Scholarship that encourage students to study African languages. He also will travel to the Florida for intensive Portuguese study before heading out of country.
“I would love to work in Latin America or Africa, so it was a very attractive program to learn the language, and it complements the Spanish I already know,” Roberts said. “I’d like to ultimately work in developing countries, so it is exciting to travel and experience life on the ground in a different country as I work toward my end goal of working in a state department.”
Roberts said Mozambique, in particular, has a lot to offer him in terms of economics and political education because it differs from the United States in many ways.
“Mozambique has one of the lowest gross domestic products in the world, and there is so much potential for growth,” Roberts said. “It will be interesting to see that culture and gain a better understanding of a country on the other side of the world to learn how it operates and functions.”
While abroad, Roberts intends to enroll in classes on current African politics in addition to the required coursework.
“I’ve already learned so much about the country of Mozambique and the language of Portuguese during this process, but I still have so much more to learn,” Roberts said.
“I want to get out and experience the culture and learn and see as much of Mozambique as I can.”
Since 1994, over 5,400 students have received Boren Awards. The Boren Scholarship program, which includes awards up to $20,000 for study, focuses on sending students to areas of the world that are critical to U.S. national security interests and underrepresented in study abroad. Scholars are required to study less commonly taught languages and complete a service requirement within three years after completion of the program. Under the service requirement, each scholar must work in a federal government position with national security responsibilities for at least one year.
Story by Candace Nelson
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