Featured Fellow: Kenny Loui
Applying For And Winning A Fellowship:
Kenny Loui on the NSEP-Boren Fellowship
FELLOWSHIP I WON AND WHEN: The National Security Education Program, Boren (NSEP-Boren) Fellowship, 2008.
MY AREAS OF ACADEMIC/PROFESSIONAL INTEREST: I have a B.A. in Criminal Justice and Political Science (2005) and an M.A. in Political Science (2008), both from San Francisco State University. My specific research interests are in community policing, ethics education and early childhood crime prevention, Korea-Japan political relations, education policy in Korea and Japan, popular culture and public diplomacy.
THE SUBSTANCE OF MY FELLOWSHIP PROPOSAL: My regional focus for my Boren Fellowship proposal was East Asia; specifically, Japan and South Korea. I requested funding to support Japanese and Korean language study domestically and abroad. The first component of my language study proposal was an intensive summer session at Middlebury College’s Japanese Language School. The second component was Korean language study at a university in Korea. While studying in Korea, I also planned to take classes on Korean politics and international affairs. Upon completion of my studies, my goal was to attain intermediate proficiency in Japanese and advanced proficiency in Korean.
In my fellowship proposal, I explained my academic and professional interests in East Asia and how proficiency in Japanese and Korean were both important to my future career objectives in international affairs and U.S. national security. I specifically mentioned my interest in pursuing a career with the U.S. Department of State or Department of Defense.
LOW POINT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS: Surprisingly, once the results were in, the lowest point in the application process was having so many options to choose from—and being able to only choose one. Besides the Boren Fellowship, I had applied for a few other programs and in the end I had to make a choice among the following options shortly before graduation: the Boren Fellowship, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, and a full-time job offer from the FBI. I knew full well that whichever option I ended up choosing, there was a high probability of never getting the chance to do either of the other two. The decision was difficult, and after much thought and deliberation, I chose both to take a break from studying and to turn down what was, for all intents and purposes, my “dream job” in order to accept the Fulbright grant and become a high school teacher for one year. I decided to fulfill my desire to make a direct and positive impact on the lives of others—sooner rather than later.
HIGH POINT IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS: Some people cringe when they hear the word “budget,” but my lips actually curl into a smile. My father required me to prepare a budget for my allowance; thus, my involuntary reaction. Anyway, in addition to the expected parts of fellowship application, applicants are required to prepare and submit a proposed budget. Preparing the budget took some time, quite a bit of research, and a few revisions, but for the most part I enjoyed the process.
ADVICE TO APPLICANTS: The Boren Fellowship application requires three separate essays (plus an optional fourth essay for applicants interested in the Bridge Award, an “add-on” internship at the National Bureau for Asian Research). Even so, you may end up spending the greatest part of your preparation time on developing and revising the budget. Be sure to have a clear and feasible proposal with an accurate and detailed budget. There will be spaces in the online application form to itemize your expenses—do not leave them blank! And remember not to go over the $30,000 limit!
WHAT I’M DOING NOW: I’m currently spending quality time with friends and family. As for what I’ll do next, maybe I’ll get back into government work, perhaps I’ll continue with teaching, or maybe I’ll try something completely new. I’m a little hesitant to say since in the past I’ve planned to do one thing, only to find myself doing something entirely unexpected. What do know is that life is full of surprises, and if a door of opportunity opens, why not take a chance, step in and see what it has to offer? You may be pleasantly surprised, not only with the outcome but with the journey itself.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’ll have several options, and depending on which option you choose, your life will go in completely different directions. Whatever decision you make—right or wrong—you won’t be able to “turn back the clock.” In my case, I turned down a direct recruitment by the FBI; chances are a job offer like that will never happen again. The same with the Boren: unless I decide to go back for another round of graduate school, I won’t be eligible to apply for a Boren Fellowship. Nevertheless, I chose what I wanted to do with a clear understanding of the consequences, good and bad, and I have no regrets. If you end up in a similar situation, you’ll have to trust your judgment and make the decision that’s best for you. Once that decision is made, don’t look back; go forward and make the best of the adventures you have chosen.