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Boren Scholarship recipient Benjamin Thomsen is going to be studying in the Political Science Department at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. (Colleen Locke/UMass Boston)
June 22, 2018

UMass Boston's Boren winners to study languages in South Korea, Georgia


  • Boston
Recipients work in national security for federal government in exchange for study abroad funding

UMass Boston has two Boren award recipients this year. Benjamin Thomsen, a 22-year-old international relations major from Mansfield who just completed his third semester at UMass Boston, has received a Boren Scholarship, and Kate Butterworth, a first-year student in the McCormack Graduate School’s Global Governance and Human Security PhD Program from upstate New York, has received a Boren Fellowship.

Initiatives of the National Security Education Program, Boren Scholarships are for undergraduate students; Boren Fellowships are for graduate students. Both fund the study of less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in studies abroad in exchange for national security work for the federal government at the end of the program.

Starting at the end of this summer and continuing through June 2019, Thomsen is going to be studying in the Political Science Department at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. At UMass Boston, Thomsen minors in Mandarin. At Korea University, in addition to taking classes in East Asian politics, he is going to be taking Korean language courses as well.

"I was told about it when I was looking to study abroad and it just sounded like a perfect fit with the service requirement where I have to work for the government for one year. I saw that as an opportunity to get my foot in the door, and the way that it focuses on language, I think was a good fit," Thomsen said.

Thomsen was also interested in going to South Korea because he lived there when he was in the U.S. Army. He hopes to enroll in UMass Boston’s accelerated master’s program, which would allow him to start taking graduate-level international relations courses in the McCormack Graduate School while still an undergraduate, meaning he could earn a master’s degree in international relations in a shorter amount of time. His other goals are to get a PhD and work for the State Department.

Kate Butterworth is also returning to a country in which she has previously visited. Through the Boren Fellowship, she will be studying the Georgian language for a year at the Language School in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, and interning at a nonprofit there.

"I applied for this fellowship due to my passion for Georgian culture and language, and a long-term career interest to work in policy development in Georgia and the South Caucasus--primarily in areas of conflict mediation and working to combat human trafficking," Butterworth said.

Applications for 2019 awards will be online in August. Contact Louise Penner, an associate professor of English and the director of the International and National Fellowships Office, to get started. Both Butterworth and Thomsen say Penner was extremely helpful in preparing their applications, with the essays and mock interviews.

"I don’t think I would have made it this far without her help," Thomsen said.