Khala Vines received the National Security Education Program scholarship after the recommendation of IUP’s merit scholarship coordinator Christian Vaccaro.

IUP international and Asian studies sophomore Khala Vines has been selected for the 2020 National Security Education Program (NSEP) David L. Boren Scholarship and will study abroad in South Korea for the 2020-21 academic school year. 

NSEP awards Boren Scholarships and Fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students who are committed to long-term, overseas immersive language study and to public service, according to NSEP’s website. NSEP recognizes its selected winners as America’s future leaders. In addition, students who have been selected for the scholarship receive funding to study the specific languages and cultures of their focus. 

Vines first heard about the scholarship and study abroad opportunity through IUP’s merit scholarship coordinator, Dr. Christian Vaccaro, who thought she was a good candidate and encouraged her to apply. 

She wanted to apply for the Boren scholarship because there is a commitment to utilizing the skills students have to take on employment for at least one year. 

“The Boren is a generous scholarship,” she said, “so it covers the cost of my study abroad program, but I was more interested in the commitment to federal service work. All Boren scholarship recipients are expected to work for the federal government for at least a year following the completion of their academics. There’s a wide range of jobs that fulfill the requirement that spans all aspects of the government.”

The application process consisted of a series of essays. 

“I initially wasn’t going to apply because I figured I had very slim chances of receiving the award,” Vines said. “However, about two weeks before the application was due, I decided to apply because of Dr. Vaccaro’s encouragement.” 

The most difficult part of the application were the essays, Vines said. The first essay asked students to describe how the country they’re studying in is important to national security, and the second asked students to discuss future goals, like why students should study in the specific country and their academics. 

Vines found out about the news via email. 

“I was checking my email one night probably 10 p.m.,” Vines said, “trying to clear out junk mail, when the congratulations email came in from Boren. Apparently, they posted on Twitter letting applicants know results would be going out that night, but I wasn’t on Twitter at all that day, so I had no idea. It was a complete surprise to me. 

“I didn’t even read past ‘Congratulations!’ before I started crying happy tears. I woke my entire house up, as my grandparents were sleeping. I didn’t think I even had a chance of receiving the award, so I was very proud of myself.”

Vines will be studying at Korea University in Sejong, South Korea. 

“I think study abroad is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “Study abroad teaches people a wide range of skills like organization, tolerance, patience and social skills. 

“It makes you a better person, too. People come out of study abroad programs having experienced diversity, new environments and language skills. I believe every college student should do it if they have the opportunity to.” 

Vines knows this will be an academic learning experience and can be a great networking opportunity as well. 

“Applying for scholarships like the Boren not only provides you with funding for your program, but they open doors,” she said. “For example, I’ll being attending the Boren convocation in Washington, D.C. There, I’ll meet all the other recipients. I’ll be meeting new people in a new environment, making connections and networking. It’s just one great opportunity and there are so many more. 

“So, students should apply to scholarships like the Boren not only because they are a scholarship, but because they are an overall experience. Even if the chances seem slim, you should still apply. The worst-case scenario is they say no, and the best-case scenario is you receive scholarship.”

She hopes to learn a lot from this study abroad scholarship opportunity but wants to maximize her time in South Korea and practice her skills. 

“During my time in Korea, my main goal is to grow my Korean language skills,” Vines said. “There will be ample opportunities to use it outside of the classroom, so I am very hopeful it will grow.

“In addition, I’d like to take the time to get to know the Korean people and their country. As an international studies student, I’d also like to study the political atmosphere of Korea.”

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