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Katie Kavanagh '21

When Katie Kavanagh ’21 studied in Jordan as part of the Boren Scholarship program, she had the opportunity to visit the Roman Amphitheater in Amman, Jordan (pictured here). Kavanagh has since completed her scholarship program abroad.

Katie Kavanagh ’21 (environmental science and international affairs)

Boren Scholarship to study Arabic and other subjects in Jordan

Summary: The Boren Scholarship is an initiative of the National Security Education Program that provides funds for undergraduate students to study language and culture in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. I studied Arabic in Jordan at the start of 2020. As a condition of the scholarship, I will commit to at least a year of work in the federal government after my graduation from Lafayette. 

I was motivated to apply to this scholarship because I wanted to develop my Arabic language skills and immerse myself in a new culture. As an environmental science and international affairs dual major, I found a spring semester program in Jordan focusing on public health, humanitarian aid, and the Syrian refugee crisis that fit my interests perfectly. I worked closely with Dean [Julia] Goldberg [associate dean of advising and co-curricular programs] throughout the application process last winter to complete my application, which included two essays, a description of my study abroad programs, and a budget proposal. 

Highlight of the experience: Due to having to return to the U.S. early as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, I was unfortunately unable to participate in an internship with the Jordanian NGO, which would have given me an opportunity to gain insight into the professional and linguistic issues affecting Jordanian society. One issue that I had been interested in learning about through the internship was water scarcity. Jordan is the third most water-scarce nation in the world, and water insecurity has been exacerbated with the arrival of over one million Syrian refugees in the past 10 years. I had hoped to intern with an environmental or humanitarian organization in Jordan that addressed issues of water insecurity, sustainability, and conservation. 

How will your experience benefit you in the future? At Lafayette I am involved with the club Refugee Action. Refugee Action aids newly arriving refugees in the Lehigh Valley through the resettlement process. In addition, Refugee Action members put together events and information campaigns within the Lafayette community to help increase awareness of refugee crises occurring throughout the world. I hope to use my experiences from Jordan, a country that has experienced huge influxes of Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees, to my work with Refugee Action at Lafayette next year.

In addition, my experiences living with a Jordanian host family, exploring Amman, and immersing myself in Jordanian society and culture helped improve my intercultural competency skills and fluency in Arabic. After I graduate from Lafayette, I will complete at least a year of public service in the federal government as required by the Boren Scholarship program. I feel that these experiences in Jordan will influence the types of work I seek and the skills I can advertise to potential employers.

Can you recall one experience/moment that will stay with you for the rest of your life? Integral to my experience in Jordan was my homestay. Not only did it help advance my Jordanian dialectical skills, but it also provided me the unique opportunity to integrate myself into the lifestyle of an Arab family and learn about the diverse experiences, politics, and perspectives of Jordanian and Palestinian people. My host family was incredibly welcoming and kind toward me. I will always remember the times I spent with my host sisters learning how to play board games, listening to Arabic music, and eating home-cooked meals together.

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Categorized in: Academic News, Environmental Science, Intercultural Experience, International Affairs, News and Features, Scholarships and Fellowships, Student Profiles, Students, Study Abroad