Three Ducks earn prestigious Boren awards to study abroad

Amid a term of remote learning, three University of Oregon students earned the opportunity to travel far from their homes in the next academic year after being selected for a prestigious Boren scholarship.

Senior Samara Schuman is a double major in Chinese and business administration, and first-year students Rebecca Vance and Elizabeth Chandler are majoring in international studies. The three recipients will apply $20,000 of Boren funding to study abroad programs in the 2020-21 academic year.

“We are thrilled to see UO students receive the Boren Scholarship,” said Luis Ruiz, assistant director for student success at Global Education Oregon. “This scholarship in particular provides a path for students to learn a critical language through long-term immersive study abroad experiences, and it connects them to future professional development opportunities in public service.”

The award is named for David L. Boren, a U.S. senator who authored legislation that created the National Security Education Program. The program and the Institute of International Education, which administers the awards on the program’s behalf, share the goal of fostering goodwill and cultural exchange with nations of interest to the United States.

Earning a Boren scholarship is a goal Schuman has been preparing for since she began attending the UO. That’s when she joined the Chinese Flagship Program and set her sights on foreign service.

“Boren is the gateway to federal service opportunities and supports my goal of becoming fluent in Mandarin,” Schuman said.

Boren awardees are required to serve a year with the federal government after completing their studies abroad. For students such as Schuman, the scholarship and the opportunity it offers is a way to further that service long-term.

Her goal is to use her passion for cultural exchange and global experiences to become a foreign service public diplomacy officer. This will be the fifth time Schuman has studied abroad through the UO, having completed a previous program in Taiwan and two in China, as well as a program in Jordan that was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. This fall’s program in Taiwan will be her fifth.

Schuman is from Eugene and never thought she’d stay in her hometown for school. But the Chinese Flagship Program has helped her chase the horizon.

“Once I found out about the opportunities and funding Flagship provided, the UO opened doors to the world for me,” Schuman said.

She credits Chinese Flagship advisers, as well as those from the Office of Distinguished Scholarships, with helping her earn her opportunities.

Chandler and Vance both prepared their applications, which include several letters of recommendation and personal essays, with help from the Global Education Oregon office and its advisers.

Planning to study at Nagoya University through Boren, Chandler’s goals include Japanese fluency; learning more about Japanese history, culture and politics; and making connections.

“I’m interested in working with the federal government long-term, so the Boren Scholarship puts me on a path to achieving those goals,” she said.

Vance agrees.

“The scholarship not only helps secure entry to federal jobs but actually requires one to serve in a federal job following graduation, which is my goal anyway,” she said.

Vance intends to maximize her immersion into Korean language study while at Seoul National University, since the generous scholarship funding will mean she can fully focus on academics and not worry about financing her study. While there, she’ll gain insight and use her fluency to prepare for future political or law work in the region.

Though plans could change as international travel restrictions evolve during the coronavirus pandemic, as of now, Boren recipients are all expecting to travel this fall to participate in their respective programs.

The award is a welcome surprise to all three during quarantine, but Vance also saw it as a sign that she’s on the right path toward good things to come.

“I feel like I’ve missed a lot of opportunities due to the lockdown,” she said, “but this news comes as an assurance to me that I’m taking important steps forward even when the world is at a standstill.”

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