2010 Boren Fellowships
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
During my last year of undergrad at Florida A&M University, I learned about many study abroad programs, including the Boren Awards. I decided to apply for the Boren Fellowship (as I was planning to get a master’s degree), because I wanted real-world experience abroad to enhance my education experience and ultimately help me obtain employment. Also, I wanted to work for the government after college so the government service requirement of the Boren Fellowship was an important factor.
I chose to do my fellowship (2010) in Bangladesh because I wanted to learn more about international development, specifically microfinance and solar energy. In researching microfinance, I became interested in the microfinance work of Nobel Peace Laureate, Muhammad Yunus, which took place in Bangladesh. Moreover, I wanted to continue my language study of Bangla. Prior to my fellowship, I was in Bangladesh (summer 2010), as a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) recipient. I participated in an intensive language study program for about three months, both in and outside of classroom instruction with CLS.
During my fellowship, I studied Bangla, conducted research, and completed an internship. I conducted research on the impact of microcredit and solar energy on rural Bangladesh’s entrepreneurial businesses. I worked with local non-profit organizations, Grameen Shakti (GS) and Development Organization of the Rural Poor, who helped connect me with both microfinance and solar home system users. In addition to my research, I interned with GS. There I conducted cost-benefit analysis and assisted in the proposal development of the Faridpur, Bangladesh $40 million GS Biogas Project. I also wrote program reports on GS solar energy and biogas programs for external organizations and for various international conferences.
My experience as a Boren Fellow truly enhanced my Bangla language skills and cultural understanding of Southeast Asia. I am thankful that I was selected and that I had the opportunity to learn and grow in a completely different culture than America. I developed a deeper understanding of social and cultural norms and religious sensitivities in Bangladesh.
I completed my service requirement with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and started working there shortly after graduating with my MBA. As a contract/agreement specialist, I am responsible for cost analysis and negotiating fair and reasonable prices for all programs that support the mission of the agency. With my experience in Bangladesh as a Boren Fellow, I was able to get reallife experience that was invaluable to my job search after college. I was also able to network with international development professionals who worked in the non-profit sector and at USAID who are my mentors today.
My advice to future applicants is to have a plan on how you will complete the government service requirement. Also, seek out work experience during your Fellowship, like with a local non-profit organization. This will stand out on your resume. Finally, try to build your professional network so you can leverage that connection when seeking a full-time job.