Going International


Lydia Wilson and Savannah Modesitt will travel abroad next year as Boren Scholars.

As commencement nears for Savannah Modesitt and Lydia Wilson, new experiences await them halfway around the world. Next fall, Modesitt and Wilson will immerse themselves into new cultures after earning the David L. Boren Scholarship.

The Boren Scholarships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program and provide students with resources to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of our nation.

After completing language and cultural training this summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wilson will travel to Indonesia to study that country’s language and culture at the State University of Malang as part of the Indonesian Flagship Language Initiative. Modesitt will participate in an intensive Russian language program in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University.

“By the end of the program, having completed the program and living in Almaty for nine months, I will have gained cultural and linguistic competencies that I could not have otherwise gained in the States,” Modesitt says. “I will go on to pursue a career related to Russian language, meaning this opportunity is an important bedrock in my professional success.”

This year, 794 undergraduate students applied for the Boren Scholarship with 221 receiving the award. Modesitt, an international studies and Russian major from Edwardsville, Illinois, and Wilson, a public health major from Palmyra, Missouri, are two of the newest Boren Scholars. MU’s Lane Burdette, a psychological sciences major who applied for a Boren Scholarship to study Swahili in Tanzania, was named an alternate.

“I hope to develop new language skills and immerse myself in the Indonesian culture,” Wilson says. “I also hope to gain a better understanding of others who have different experiences from myself and learn from them in order to develop new perspectives and grow as an individual.”

In exchange for funding, Boren recipients agree to work in the federal government. Following graduation, Wilson intends to serve in the Peace Corps, completing the federal service requirement of the scholarship. Her hope is to eventually work for the Centers for Disease Control, studying communicable diseases in developing countries.

“The Boren Scholarship will provide me with a strong foundation for my future career as a global health ambassador,” says Wilson, who is pursing minors in leadership and public service, and human development and family studies, in addition to majoring in public health.

Applying for fellowships such as the Boren Scholarship can be both demanding and enlightening.

“This process taught me how to work diligently and effectively within a given time frame,” Wilson says. “Writing and reworking the essays was a challenge and often induced stress, but overall was a very positive and rewarding experience.”

Upon learning of her selection as a Boren Scholar, Modesitt thought of the professors, advisers and mentors who provided advice, wrote recommendation letters and offered support as she pursued the scholarship.

“Success is hardly a solo effort, but a collaboration,” she says.