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Discovering the world with Boren Scholar Alice Bruil

June 24, 2024

Alice Bruil, an undergraduate student in Global and Regional Studies with minors in French and Global Health, has received a Boren Undergraduate Scholarship for the 2024-2025 academic year. As part of the Boren Scholarship’s African Flagship Language Initiative, Bruil will study French in Senegal. 

Her journey with French began in high school; Bruil used to dream of visiting France, of strolling down the Parisian boulevards. However, her perspective broadened as she delved deeper into the language’s global significance. 

“Once I started actually learning the language, I realized that it’s so important for a lot of countries, not just France,” Bruil said. “It’s an official language of the U.N, it’s kind of like the founding language of diplomacy, and it’s spoken in so many regions of the world: the Caribbean, West Africa, Europe.” Alice Boren stands in front of a grassy landscape. She has blonde hair and is wearing a black shirt.

This perspective led Bruil to the Boren Scholarship, nationally-funded scholarships that emphasize the study of critical languages and regions crucial to U.S. national security. Undergrad recipients of the Boren Scholarship are provided upward of $25,000 for the academic year to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and generally underrepresented in study abroad programs.

Initially, Bruil didn’t think French fit these standards. “I was like ‘French is not really seen as a critical language to a lot of [people] … so it doesn’t quite fit with the criteria of the other languages that people are studying in the Boren,” she said. 

Even so, Bruil found an opportunity to explore its application in a unique context. “You’re studying French in West Africa, and that’s what makes it a critical language, because you’re getting all that cultural literacy that you wouldn’t get if you were studying in France or Belgium, or wherever else.” 

The road to the Boren Scholarship was not without its hurdles. “When I first started my application to Boren, I was really stumped on this one essay question — it’s like the main foundation of the application, which is tying your region, language, and general academic interest to national security,” Bruil said. “And that’s kind of the point of the Boren, is you’re going abroad to learn this language and study this culture.”

It was her academic journey at the Jackson School that provided her the foundation with her essay, according to Bruil, who noted how her coursework and participation in Euro Club shaped her worldview. 

“The Jackson School has allowed me to be better at connecting those ideas in my writing,” she said. “And I think that that gave me a much stronger application.”

Bruil is currently studying French at the University of Florida in preparation for her August departure. Her focus highlights the expansive opportunities available to Jackson School students through programs like the Boren Scholarship.

“I think that Boren is a hidden key to working your way into these really exclusive spaces that a lot of people, especially on the West Coast, don’t really have access to,” Bruil said. “You can study whatever you want, you can do research all in your target language, and that can be applied to any job anywhere, at any time.”