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Where Can a Foreign Language Take You?

With all the recent talk about the decrease in foreign language enrollment in the United States, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at some concrete examples of real career paths that began in a language classroom. These examples are all taken from profiles done of Boren Awards alumni who applied to and received funding based in no small part on their dedication to language study, among other things. These students show how a dedication to linguistic and cultural learning can help lead to meaningful work on some of the most important global concerns of our time.

Jodi-Kaye Wade ‘s interest in Bangla and international development lead her to apply first for a Critical Language Scholarship and then for a Boren Fellowship where she studied Bangla in Bangladesh and interned at several non-profits that worked with rural poor on microfinance and other development related issues. Upon return, she earned her MBA and worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as a contract/agreement specialist. Read Jodi’s full story.

As a student of bio-molecular engineering, Kathleen Keough was interested in international collaboration and innovation and felt that studying abroad and learning Ukrainian would put her on that path. Her time abroad gave her a love of Eastern European culture and led her to a career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read Kathleen’s full story.

Amanda Wheat combined her years of Spanish and interest in environmental studies to learn Portuguese and the nuances of climate politics in Brazil on a Boren Fellowship. Her background in Spanish made Portuguese more accessible, allowing her to pursue her interests and find a position at USAID as a climate change specialist. Read Amanda’s full story.

Colin Holmes built upon his previous experience studying Hindi in India as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar by applying for a Boren Fellowship to continue his language study and to research watershed management and its impacts in India. Colin’s language study allowed him to pass the Hindi exam, a requirement to become a tenured Foreign Service Officer. Read Colin’s full story.

We have many alumni stories like these. Visit our student profile page on the Boren Awards website to see where language study can take you.