Two URI students from North Smithfield win prestigious Boren awards

Kate Dubois, left, and Kaylee Goyette of North Smithfield will travel to Taiwan to study Mandarin.

KINGSTON –  University of Rhode Island students Kate Dubois and Kaylee Goyette, both from North Smithfield, will be traveling to Taiwan to study Mandarin following the announcement this week that they have each been awarded a Boren Scholarship worth up to $25,000.

The two students, participants in the International Studies and Diplomacy and Chinese Language Flagship Program and juniors at the college, were among only three enrolled to receive the awards this year.

The David L. Boren Awards are among the most prestigious study abroad awards offered to American college students, according to a press release announcing the recipients. The National Security Education Program, a federal initiative to expand the pool of American citizens with foreign language and international skills, sponsors the awards. In exchange for funding, recipients agree to work for the federal government for at least one year. Since 2011, 27 URI students have received a Boren Award.

Born in Korea and adopted as an infant, Dubois said she has always been interested in languages and how people communicate. She said she was initially drawn to the Chinese Language Flagship Program because she thought she wanted to pursue a career with the U.S. Department of State as a foreign service officer, but she came to realize she is much more interested in law.

Given that the Boren requires recipients to commit one year following graduation to working in public service, Dubois said she saw it as a perfect way to start her career after she graduates.

“For me it really just fit,” said Dubois. “I’m interested in working in the government after graduation, eventually as an attorney. The Boren scholarship in addition to offering funding toward the study abroad program, provides an opportunity to jumpstart my career in the federal government, because those jobs are often really competitive and hard to come by.”

Dubois plans to take the LSAT in the fall while in Taiwan. She is particularly interested in international and human rights law. During the spring semester, Dubois hopes to intern with the Hu Fu Center for East Asia Democratic Studies, which has a long history studying the mechanisms and processes of authoritarian transition and democratization in the region, particularly in attitudes toward democracy, human rights, political values and economic reforms.

While mindful of the positive impact of the program on her career plans, Dubois said she is also very enthusiastic about the experience ahead of her.

“I’m also just looking forward to being able to use my Mandarin, that I’ve been developing these past three years in a classroom setting with other native speakers – to be able to really test myself and my language skills, to learn more about their culture and their education system – and, hopefully, make lots of friends,” she said.

Goyette said she realized she had a passion for languages during high school Spanish.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to speak to another person in their native language,” she said. “You can learn so much about them – especially when you don’t have that language barrier to cross.”

Goyette began at URI undecided about her major.

Adopted at 11 months old from China, she said that once she arrived at the school,  she saw the Chinese Language Flagship Program as a way to reconnect to her heritage and learn more about the Chinese language and culture, paired with International Studies and Diplomacy.

Goyette said she applied for the Boren Scholarship not only for the financial assistance and the opportunity to study abroad, but also because the program meshes with her international studies major.

While not yet completely settled on what she wants to do long term, she said she is leaning toward working in international adoption and hopes to intern in the spring with either a governmental or nonprofit organization, or an adoption agency. She said she is excited about exploring these areas of interest overseas and gaining a year of experience in the federal government when she returns and sees this as an opportunity to find something she is 100 percent committed to.

“I’m open to new possibilities. I’m interested to learn more about Taiwan and their customs and am looking forward to gaining new friends and meeting new people that I can speak with in Chinese,” said Goyette. “There is so much opportunity out there and so many options that are open as a result of this program – and then the ability to give back by spending a year in federal service is so worthwhile. I think it will be a great experience.”

Dubois and Goyette have been friends since the second grade, and will leave for National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan in August.

Also named for an award was Adriana Wilding, a graduate student from Scituate, who will travel to Azerbaijan through a Boren Fellowship to study intensive Turkish through the Boren’s Turkish Flagship Language Institute.

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