IIE Blog Opening Minds
IIE Blog Opening Minds

Where Can a Foreign Language Take You?

By: Tineka Lebrun on Thursday, July 2, 2015

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, Bangla, BangladeshJodi-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.

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  • Beckett Haight said:
    7/19/2015 2:13 PM

    It is very heartening to hear these stories. I learned Spanish and am learning the Ethiopian language Amharic and sometimes wonder if it is worth it. It though like there are definitely some options to use my language skills for a good cause!

  • Tracey said:
    8/3/2015 5:18 PM

    I think that it makes a differnce in society if we as individuals apply what we learn in all facets of our lives and teachings. I appreciate her interest in "International collaboration and innovation."

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For more than nine decades, the Institute of International Education has been at the forefront of international education. The Opening Minds blog is IIE’s take on how this field continues to change. Here the Institute’s leaders will explore international educational exchange, global student mobility, institutional partnerships, international development, and other topics and trends that are shaping higher education around the world.

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