University and Major:
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
- Dual baccalaureate in ‘Economics’ and ‘Philosophy: Law & Justice’ with a minor in the Brookings Institution’s Public Policy program.
Why did you choose to study abroad in Israel?
Well I knew I wanted to learn Arabic before graduating and I knew I wanted to go someplace that had an emphasis in classes on international relations, peace and conflict studies, human rights, law, etc. and the University of Haifa in Israel happened to have all of that so it seemed like the perfect fit.
Why did you choose to study abroad through USAC?
I chose to study abroad through USAC because they offered not only high-quality programs in unique and interesting parts of the world, but they also provided me with such comprehensive services that it made the whole process as simple as possible. With everything from acceptance into the host university to the visa application to international insurance to the attentive and responsive staff being included in the USAC package, it allowed me to focus more brainpower on my Boren application and my schoolwork instead of stressing about all the paperwork involved in studying abroad.
Why did you decide to study abroad for a year?
I decided to study abroad for the year because I wanted to have as much of an immersive experience as possible and to just give myself plenty of time to learn the language. Also, being a Boren Scholar, we’re encouraged to be abroad for as long as we can.
How have you prepared for your study abroad?
I always like to be ahead of the curve so to prepare for my time abroad, I’ve started learning Arabic to just have a basic foundation for when I start my classes in Haifa. I’ve also just been reading up on the people, land, culture, languages, religions, and whatever else to enhance my cultural competence of the country and the region. As Americans, I think we have a tendency to go places that are unfamiliar to us with a colonist mindset and I want to make sure I don’t fall into that trap because people, in general, tend to be much more welcoming and open to engaging with you when they see you’ve taken a vested interest in their life or culture.
What are you most looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in Arab and Israeli culture beyond just the tourist perspective. I travel a fair amount but I don’t usually stay in one place an extended amount of time enough to really get to live the local experience so I’m beyond excited for that.
What are you most nervous about?
I’m really not nervous. I’m more so just agog to start the experience. Hellen Keller wrote on how security – in the sense of living life without danger – is mostly a superstition and she said: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” I find that to be really prompting so I just try to leave no room in life for nerves.
How did you determine which classes you would take in Israel?
Well, I’m interested in a career in international and human rights law so that, in addition to my personal absorption with Middle Eastern and African politics, makes learning Arabic a kind of requisite given the language’s ubiquitous use in international relations and global politics. For those reasons, I was drawn to the classes offered there, such as Contemporary Arab Thought and Culture, Arms Control in the Nuclear Realm, Islamic Fundamentalism in the Arab World, and Arab-Israeli Relations. I also chose to enroll in their Honors Seminar in Peace and Conflict Studies because I’m in the Honors College at UNLV so it seemed like a good fit. Overall, I opted into a curriculum that I thought would give me comprehensive literacy in the kinds of topics that are a desideratum given my career aspirations.
Do you have any tips for students considering applying for Boren Scholarship?
Boren is fairly competitive, but I would say to not let that discourage you. Keep in mind that the Boren Scholarship is one of the more esoteric nationally competitive scholarships so there’s a whole other facet to it than just your grades – although that’s obviously crucial, as well. You’re committing to mastering a foreign language, living in another country, working in national security, and dealing with everything that comes with all of that so make sure this is something you really want to do and make sure your immense interest comes off in your application.
Anything extra about what you’re looking forward to or preparing for your time abroad?
Being from Las Vegas, I’m definitely excited to live in the Mediterranean and just getting to enjoy the beach. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Holy Land and living in a place with so much world-influential history, especially given the region’s pilgrimage significance in my faith.
Zantana Ephrem is a Boren Scholar who is studying abroad in Haifa, Israel for the Fall 2018-Spring 2019 academic year.