UNLV junior and native Las Vegan Jaron McCully has dreamed of studying abroad since he was in high school. Once he made it into the Rebel family, he became one of a handful of students to win the $25,000 Boren Scholarship, presented by the Boren Awards.
As an international business major with involvement in student organizations and a member of the UNLV Honors College, McCully said the Boren Scholarship seemed like the perfect opportunity.
The Boren Awards are an initiative of the United States Defense Language and National Security Education Office and allow for scholars to study critical languages while immersing themselves in world regions that are normally underrepresented in study abroad programs.
The application process, however, is rigorous. McCully’s best advice for interested students was to start as early as possible and to remember that it’s worth the effort.
“It was a lot of work, the most work I’ve ever put into a scholarship, but I started really early. I actually started writing my essays probably a year before they were even due, because I already knew this is what I wanted to do, study abroad,” he said. “I think the time that I had allowed me to put the best work I possibly could onto the paper.”
McCully is also the recipient of the Lee Business School scholarship, and like other scholarships at UNLV, both awards are stackable.
“Even though it’s $1,000 or $2,000 here and there, if you keep doing it, it adds up, and before you know it, you could have up to $10,000 if you just keep trying and apply each semester,” he said.
After poring over his application countless times and hoping for the best, McCully was notified that he was not selected, but would be an alternate if another recipient did not accept.
Months later, he was told that he had been selected to win the scholarship.
“I didn’t expect to get it, because I thought, ‘Who would not want to accept that?’ But apparently, it happened,” McCully said.
McCully chose to study in Japan for two semesters. As someone who comes from a military family, he said that while he is used to traveling, this was his first experience on his own.
“Going to Japan was the first time I went abroad by myself, so it was a very big adjustment for me,” McCully said. “I did not grow up knowing this language, so it was very difficult at first [as was] the cultural adjustment of making friends.”
After some time getting acclimated, he gained a better grasp of the language and began enjoying his new environment.
“It was a little bit rough for me, mentally, but then, after maybe a month, I didn’t even want to come back,” he said. “I think that by the end of the program, I will be a lot better than where I started.”
Scholarship Leads to Public Service
Students who receive a scholarship or fellowship through the Boren Awards will commit to spending at least one year working in a public service position within the federal government following graduation. McCully, who chose UNLV because of its affordability and international business program, said he'll wait to commit to public service since he'd like to continue his education after earning his bachelor's degree.
“I’m looking to go to law school, so I’m thinking long-term, potentially, working for the government,” McCully said.
The Boren Awards give scholars three years to start working in the federal government after graduating, giving them time to seek higher education or other work experience.
Scholarship awards are determined by the amount of time spent abroad, with the $25,000 scholarship awarded to those planning to spend 25 to 52 weeks in another region.
The next applications cycle for the Boren Scholarship will open in the fall for the 2024-25 academic year. Applications are usually due by late January to early February.
Details about undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships are available year-round on the Boren Awards website. The website provides resources such as webinars, application instructions, and scholarship statistics for those interested in applying.
Interested students can also contact the UNLV office of international programs for additional guidance and to learn about other programs that help make study abroad affordable.