Knowing that many of our readers are interested in pursuing research and various fellowships to work abroad, I thought it might be useful to describe my life as a Boren Fellow in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. It was quite an intense application process to express my intent for studying Portuguese in Mozambique and creating an affiliation with in-country organizations to support my research on media, youth, and state building, but the value of my time in Mozambique has greatly exceeded the tedious application process.
First of all, the Boren Fellowship is an intensive language fellowship. With my Boren funds, I am participating in the African Languages Initiative program in partnership with American Councils and the University of Florida. In this program, I take language classes for about 20 hours per week at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique’s premier higher education institution. Mozambican professors teach classes on conversation, grammar, politics, culture in really small, personalized classes of only Boren Fellows. In addition, I have a language partner here to assist in my transition to Mozambican life, I live with a local family, and my program has several excursions throughout the semester. For example, last month my group went to an African music festival, which took place seven hours by bus north of Maputo. It was an eventful weekend in a cabin on a lagoon off the Indian Ocean that included increased camaraderie with the five other Boren Fellows and Scholars in my program; a Mozambican equivalent of a tailgate party with thousands of music festival goers laughing, dancing, and grilling delicious food in the streets; and conversing in Portuguese and meeting new friends, which included a rat that decided to make its home in my bunk (actually that wasn’t quite a fun part!).
In addition to language study, my research on youth, media, and state building is fascinating. I am partnering with several local organizations to provide training on media strengthening and evaluate organizational impact. Mozambique has many associations dedicated to media strengthening and youth development, and the country has a relatively high level of media freedom compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries. When I am not in class, my schedule is usually filled with meetings with community members, discussions with youth, and events on media and culture throughout the city.
My days are always an adventure. Last Sunday I packed myself into a small minivan full of twenty or so people to go down the Maputo coast and play ultimate Frisbee with a multinational team. As it is nearing summer in the Southern Hemisphere, thousands along the beach strand were basking in the sun and water, selling colorful fabrics, and winding down the previous night’s party (the Saturday nightlife goes on until Sunday’s dawn). Running around in the cool sand with the team and conversing in Portuguese reminded me despite the ups and downs of living in a foreign country, it is possible to find people with common interests for this mountaineer in Mozambique.
Lastly, experiencing the life and culture of this country really opens my eyes to different viewpoints, the beauty of the region, and the challenges in development.
If you are thinking about applying to a Boren Fellowship, or a Fulbright, apply.