Kendall Bianchi '15 Will Study Arabic and Middle Eastern Culture in Jordan Next Academic Year

July 6, 2015
A photo of a city in Jordan

Last summer, Kendall Bianchi '15 spent a month studying Arabic in Jordan. “I managed to navigate public transportation, use my choppy Arabic to buy a book, and find my way back home at the end of the day,” she said. “That was one of my favorite days because I really got to experience daily life in Amman.”

In a few weeks, Bianchi will travel to Jordan again, to spend nine months studying the language and culture as a Boren Scholar. Boren Scholarships, an initiative of the National Security Education Program, provide U.S. undergraduate students with up to $20,000 for study in world regions critical to U.S. interests. Recipients commit to working for the federal government for at least one year after completion of the program.

Bianchi, who majored in economics and political science with a focus in international relations, couldn’t have imagined such a plan three years ago. She became interested in international security as a sophomore, she said, after taking classes with Stacie Goddard, Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science, and Paul MacDonald, associate professor of political science. In her junior year, she decided to learn Arabic in order to add a regional specialization to her study of international security.

Learning the language was not easy. “I studied Spanish for years when I was younger, but learning Arabic was unlike anything I’d ever done,” she said. “I became really interested in the language-learning process, and began challenging myself to learn the language as quickly as I could.”

As a Boren Scholar, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the Middle Eastern culture, and of how the region has been affected by U.S. counterinsurgency campaigns and U.S. strategy in Iraq in the mid-2000s. “At Wellesley, I have learned to think globally and holistically, and that approach will inform the work I do for the government after I’ve completed my year abroad,” she said.

“In recent years, there has been greater awareness within the defense community of the vital importance of language and culture in military education,” she said. “In the future, I’d like to further that trend, and help ensure that decisions at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels are made with cultural and linguistic considerations in mind.”

Wellesley sends scholars to places all over the world each year. Isabelle Chen '17 will study in China this summer as a Gilman Scholar. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship provides up to $5,000 in support of an internship or study. Gilman Scholars during the 2014–15 academic year included: Carey Cabrera '16 (Dominican Republic, Spring 2015); Elizabeth Murillo '16 (Japan, Year 2014-2015); and Rita Marquez '16 (Chile, Fall 2014).