Category: News

Title: MASIA Students Earn Prestigious Boren Fellowship

Date Published: April 28, 2021

The National Security Education Program’s David L. Boren Fellowship is a highly selective award that funds study abroad opportunities for graduate students interested in geographic areas, languages, and fields that are critical to U.S. national security. Fellowships last three months to one year, during which recipients pursue their own plan of study. Recipients commit to at least one year of federal government service upon completing their graduate degree.

This year, the Asian Studies Program would like to congratulate Boren Fellowship recipients Bailey Brya (MASIA’23), Gregory Wood (MASIA’23), and Sophie Wright (MASIA’23), who will all be studying Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan for the 2021-22 academic year. In the section below, Bailey, Gregory, and Sophie share their reasons for applying for Boren, study plans, and what the fellowship means for their future career.

 

Bailey ByraName: Bailey Brya

Why did you apply for the Boren Fellowship?

I studied abroad in mainland China as an undergraduate. Since then, I have been interested in spending more time in Asia to deepen my academic study of national security and foreign policy and to improve my Mandarin to an advanced level. At Georgetown, I have benefited from my language courses, and am eager to return to a target language country for an immersive and intensive experience. Beyond language acquisition, studying in Taiwan gives me the opportunity to live in an Asian democracy for the first time—during a time in which Taiwan has been a leader in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, upholding democracy in Asia, and negotiating its position in escalating tensions in U.S.-China relations. A Boren Fellowship will give me the flexibility to focus on language for a year while continuing to refine my interests in national security and foreign policy.

Can you share your study/research plan?

With the Boren Fellowship, I will travel to Taipei to study Mandarin Chinese at the International Chinese Language Program (ICLP) at National Taiwan University. I will attend ICLP’s nine-month program, where I will enroll in twenty hours of Mandarin instruction per week, consisting of one-on-one and small group classes each weekday. I also hope to set up an extracurricular internship or research assistantship position, either with a think tank, media organization or with my former professor who is currently faculty at National Chengchi University, in order to apply my language skills and maximize my experiential learning about Taiwan’s domestic politics and regional relations.

What aspect of your Boren Fellowship are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about being in an environment where I can practice and use my Mandarin skills on a daily basis. My favorite parts of study abroad have been casual interactions, like chatting with cab drivers and shop owners, having my tones corrected by well-meaning bus drivers, or trying new foods with classmates. I’m sure that being in an immersive cultural and language learning environment after over a year of isolation and Zoom classes will be challenging, but I’m eager to get out and explore Taipei’s night markets and historical sites with new friends.

How do you see the Boren Fellowship influencing your future career?

I am interested in a public service career within the U.S. government or intelligence community implementing and supporting U.S. foreign policy in Asia. In MASIA, I have continued to develop my interest in China’s foreign policy and regional influence. Improving my Mandarin proficiency through a Boren Fellowship will enable me to access and analyze more information about China’s policies, actions, and statements, which are skills I hope to use in future analyst or research positions.

Name: Greg WoodGred Wood

Why did you apply for the Boren Fellowship?

I applied for the Boren Fellowship in Taiwan because I recognize the importance of immersive language learning and on-the-ground experience in giving more purpose to my remaining graduate study at Georgetown and post-grad career in foreign policy. Additionally, having previously lived in Taiwan until the pandemic forced me to return home in April 2020, any opportunity to return there—especially one like Boren that is longer-term and so beneficial to my career—was a huge draw for me on a personal level.

Can you share your study/research plan?

The primary focus of my plan is intensive Mandarin Chinese study at National Taiwan University’s International Chinese Language Program (ICLP) in Taipei, where I will take classes twenty hours per week from September 2021 to June 2022. Outside of immersive Chinese study in Taipei, I hope to pair up with a Taipei-based think tank to research Taiwan’s contemporary party politics, especially as issues surrounding the island’s international political standing and national security continue to evolve.

What aspect of your Boren Fellowship are you most excited about?

Beyond revisiting all of the old places and friends I had the privilege to get to know through Fulbright Taiwan, I am excited to discover new parts of Taiwan. As a musician, I hope to explore Taipei’s vibrant music scene. Having also never visited the island’s east coast, I hope to explore its nature and to better understand the aboriginal communities concentrated in this area. I know there are so many more memories ahead of me to be made alongside my MASIA friends also studying in Taiwan!

How do you see the Boren Fellowship influencing your future career?

I am pursuing a career in U.S.-Taiwan policy and therefore see the chance to improve my communicative and written fluency as an indispensable opportunity. Getting more on-the-ground experience to better understand the Taiwanese perspective on social and political issues will also be important in helping to create more informed U.S. foreign policy.

Sophie WrightName: Sophie Wright

Why did you apply for the Boren Fellowship?

During my undergraduate studies as a Chinese and English major at Grinnell College, I became interested in Chinese language and history, U.S.-China relations, and international education. These interests stem from my personal identity as a Chinese American adoptee, my study abroad and vacation experiences in mainland China, and my teaching experiences in China (summer 2015) and Taiwan (2017-2018), as well as my academic coursework at Grinnell and Georgetown University, including an undergraduate thesis on the history of Grinnell College’s cross-cultural exchange programs with China in the early and late twentieth century.

After I graduated from Grinnell College in 2017, I lived in Taitung County, Taiwan for a year in order to teach English on a Fulbright Fellowship. During my time in Taitung City, I worked with a Taiwanese co-teacher and taught third to sixth graders at two different elementary schools. Through this teaching experience, cultivating relationships with my students and co-teacher, and learning more about inequities in the Taiwanese public educations system, I knew that I wanted to return to Taiwan in order to attain professional proficiency in Mandarin Chinese.

I applied for the Boren Fellowship as I wish to pursue a career in the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in order to facilitate more international education programs between the United States and Taiwan as well as to create more opportunities for underrepresented students, such as first-generation, low-income, and ethnic minorities, to study in the United States and Taiwan.

Can you share your study/research plan?

I will be studying Mandarin Chinese at National Taiwan University’s International Chinese Language Program (ICLP) in Taipei, Taiwan for the 2021-2022 Academic Year.

What aspect of your Boren Fellowship are you most excited about?

I am most looking forward to going back to Taiwan to learn Mandarin Chinese again! I completed my Chinese major at the end of my second year at Grinnell College in 2015, so it will have been about six years since I last studied Chinese in an academically intensive environment. I am also thrilled and humbled that I will be studying in Taiwan together with my friends Bailey, Greg, and Salwa!

How do you see the Boren Fellowship influencing your future career?

Since teaching in Taiwan with the Fulbright Program and working in undergraduate admissions for two years before coming to the MASIA program at Georgetown, I have been interested in pursuing a public service-oriented career within the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which would combine all of my interests in U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, increasing access and equity in education, and international education systems in East and Southeast Asia. In this way, I believe that the Boren fellowship is invaluable for my personal and professional life, as it allows me to spend more time living in Taipei, a city that I did not live in during my Fulbright Fellowship, to fully immerse myself in learning more Mandarin Chinese, and most importantly, to make more local Taiwanese friends.