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Two Students Win Prestigious International Scholarships

By: Cienna Madrid   Published 7:11 am / April 26, 2016

Two Boise State undergraduate students have been awarded a prestigious international scholarship that will allow them to immerse themselves in a foreign culture and pursue their goals of mastering another language while learning the intricate politics of their host countries.

The Boren Scholarship is an initiative of the National Security Education Program and provides funding opportunities for undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests. This is the first time students from Boise State have been awarded the highly competitive scholarship.

Student Rachel Gallina poses before a flowering bush.

Rachel Gallina, portrait, Photo by Allison Corona

Sophomore Rachel Gallina received a year-long scholarship to study Arabic at the University of Haifa in Israel in the fall.

“The University of Haifa is the most ethnically diverse campus in Israel, perhaps the whole of the middle east, which is a strong pull for me,” Gallina explained. “The history of what I’ve done has revolved around ethnic tension. I want to work on peace-building through economics.” Gallina will graduate in spring 2018 with a bachelor of arts in economics, a minor in political science and a certificate in Arabic.

A component of the scholarship includes working for the federal government in the national security arena – the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, for instance, or within the intelligence community – within three years of graduation. After graduation, Gallina hopes to work with the Office of Transition Initiatives, a department that supports U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy. Specifically, Gallina would like to work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on economically empowering women in war-torn countries. Her interest in working with women in predominantly Muslim countries stems in part from her personal history.

“I was born and raised in Kosovo,” Gallina explained. “It’s a Muslim country, but they don’t speak Arabic, they speak Albanian. Still, it was definitely around me in my childhood and I was fascinated by it, and that led me to study Arabic in Jordan after high school. I am eager to immerse myself in speaking the language but my long-term goal is to be able to listen. I think if you want to be an instigator of change, you have to start by listening. With the acquisition of Arabic comes the ability to really hear the heart of a culture and hear the people who can’t advocate for themselves. A lot of people aren’t given the opportunity to have a voice or have their voice heard. Eventually, I’d like to facilitate change in postwar countries that allows women to rise out of poverty and extreme conflict.”

Student Lindsey Bays poses in red before a white flowering tree.

Lindsey Bays, portrait, Photo by Allison Corona

Junior Lindsey Bays received a year-long scholarship to study Mandarin in China. Last summer, Bays completed an intensive eight-week language course in Dalian, a city in China’s Liaoning Province. For fall semester, Bays will study in Bejing, followed by a spring semester in Guangzhou. She hopes to volunteer at an orphanage while there, in addition to attending university classes.

“My interest in the country initially stemmed from my adoption from China,” Bays explained. “That, combined with my interest in political science and how different governments operate, really made me start to question how being born in a certain country, under a certain government, shapes your perspective on the world.”

Bays hopes to take political science classes while studying in Bejing.

“I’m interested specifically in the one-child policy and the cultural revolution,” she said. “A lot of that cultural background and history ties back to girls who were put up for adoption.”

Bays will graduate in spring 2017 with a bachelor of science in political science with an emphasis in international relations and a minor in Chinese studies. Following graduation, Bays hopes to apply to be a foreign affairs intern in Congress. “Eventually, I’d like to be a foreign policy analyst,” she explained.

Both Bays and Gallina are members of Boise State’s Honors College and credit the college, and specifically Emily Jones, the college’s national scholarships coordinator, and Honors College Dean Andrew Finstuen, with helping them craft successful applications.

“The Honors College was instrumental in my success – I couldn’t have done it without Emily or Dr. Finstuen,” Gallina said. “Every faculty member I asked to coffee agreed and they ended every coffee with, ‘Anything I can do to help.’ I feel like the campus won, I didn’t win. It was a community effort.”

“Emily was always available and there was an on-campus committee that helped me critique my personal essay,” Bays added. “They helped keep me on deadline.”

While Jones often works with Honors College students on scholarship applications, she stresses that her work is not exclusive to the Honors College – she sees herself as a resource for all students at Boise State. “My job is to help promising, high-achieving students apply for prestigious, nationally-competitive awards and fellowships,” Jones said. “Studying abroad, especially through these types of programs, has a way of significantly altering students. Their scope is widened, their capacity stretched, their reach broadened, their perspective changed. Through study abroad, a student’s world becomes bigger and smaller all at once.”

Bays had advice for any students who wish to study abroad but may feel overwhelmed by the process, the cost or the options.

“There is a misconception that studying abroad has to cost a lot of money but there are a lot of scholarships out there, especially government scholarships, that will help make it possible to get credit and not cost that much money, or even any money at all,” she said. “It takes time to find what you’re looking for but cost shouldn’t be a barrier for other students.”