For Alexis Smith ’18, ’19 (M), a cumulative year and a half of cultural and lingual immersion experiences in Spanish and Arabic sparked a career trajectory and led to a prestigious fellowship.
As an undergraduate student double majoring in administration of justice and global studies at Salve Regina, Smith studied abroad in Seville, Spain, allowing her to increase her Spanish language skills to the advanced level. She also spent a summer studying accelerated Arabic through Project Global Officer at the University of Arizona.
“This not only increased my cultural and lingual knowledge and gave me lifelong friends, but also broadened my perspective on international issues, gave me the opportunity to see multiple different countries and left me with the ultimate goal of becoming fluent in both Arabic and Spanish,” Smith said.
After completing her undergraduate degree, Smith also earned an M.S. in administration of justice and homeland security, with concentrations in cybersecurity and digital forensics, through Salve Regina’s popular combined bachelor’s/master’s program.
She currently works as a contractor for Rite-Solutions, Inc. as a cyber analyst at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, and is also a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve’s Military Intelligence Battalion in Fort Devens, Massachusetts.
Smith first learned about the National Security Education Program’s Boren Fellowships, which fund language study in world regions critical to U.S. interests, while researching immersion opportunities for graduate students.
“At first, I was interested in applying to the Fulbright program in order to expand my Arabic language capabilities as well as immerse myself fully into a different culture,” she said. “However, the Boren Fellowship, an award focused on language and cultural immersion for students with a commitment to national security, was a perfect fit for me, as I already work in the national security sector and intend to have a lengthy career in national security.”
After an intensive application process, Smith was awarded a $24,000 Boren Fellowship to fund immersion studies in Arabic at Sijal Institute in Amman, Jordan during the 2019-2020 academic year.
“When I learned that I had won the Boren Fellowship, I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to fully immerse myself into the Arabic language and culture,” Smith added. “I truly believe that language learning is contingent on cultural learning as well. You cannot fully learn a language from a book because you lack the knowledge of the cultural nuances intertwined into the language. Because of this, I cannot wait to land in Jordan and absorb all of the culture and language that I can while living there.”