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South Asia MAIS Candidate Hannah Haegeland on her Boren Fellowship to India

October 31, 2014


My time in India as a Boren Fellow enabled me to significantly improve my Urdu and Hindi language skills. The AIIS’s Urdu program has incredible instruction. Working as a research and writing fellow for [community organization] no man’s land in Delhi gave me the opportunity to meet a number of scholars, artists, and activists involved in shared South Asian sociopolitical issues today.

Hannah Haegeland, a current South Asia M.A.I.S. candidate, recently returned from a Boren Fellowship to India. She spoke to us about her experience.

On the Boren Fellowship:

The Boren Fellowship provides funding for graduate students to go abroad and study a language that the U.S. government has deemed critical to national security as well as conduct their own research or participate in an academic internship. In exchange for what tends to be generous funding, Boren Fellows commit to a year of public service following graduation in a capacity that contributes to U.S. national security, very broadly defined. The idea behind Boren funding is to get more people in government that have actually lived in the cultures, learned the languages, and studied the politics and history of the countries around the world that the U.S. especially needs to understand and work well with.

I used Boren funding to spend a semester studying Urdu intensively at AIIS in Lucknow and then moved to Delhi for a semester to continue my language studies privately while doing research and writing for a South Asian trust called no man’s land.

On her memorable experiences:

Some of my most memorable experiences from the year were times when the benefits of my language study and work coincided, such as when I attended a Hindi/Urdu-language press conference in Lucknow in the immediate aftermath of the Muzzafarnagar riots or when I sat in on a conference meeting of small NGOs working on women’s issues in Delhi, also all in Hindi.

A year of in-context study of contemporary sociopolitical issues and Urdu and Hindi gave me perspective that I would not have developed had I stayed in Seattle and finished my M.A. in the traditional two years. It impacted how I look at my own research; questions I had not thought of asking came up over dinners and cups of tea or whiskey with people much smarter than I am.

On life after Boren:

Currently, as I finish my coursework and master’s papers, I am working part-time for the National Bureau of Asian Research on their annual Strategic Asia publication and also participating in the Slade Gorton International Policy Center Global Leadership Program.

As a returned Boren Fellow, I am now applying for jobs in federal offices that conduct research to support the formation of U.S. policy on South Asia.

Advice for Boren applicants:

My advice for graduate students applying for Boren funding would be to think carefully and creatively about how to best translate what you do in academia to a policy-oriented, federal audience in a way that expresses how the topics we study in detail as academics have significant implications for the U.S. government.

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The application deadline for 2015-16 Boren Fellowships is January 27, 2015. Check out our Funding page for more information.