Post Date and Author: 
- by  Abby Weingarten
Studying French in Senegal this fall will be a dream realized for New College of Florida third-year Michael Bolesh, who was just selected to be a Boren scholar.

The environmental studies and anthropology student will join the French component of the African Flagship Language Initiative (AFLI), applying the scholarship funds from the competitive award (up to $25,000) to intensive language study and immersion in Dakar.

“Four months of this kind of immersion will really shake up my perspectives on life, a career, my goals, and whatever I may think I understand now,” Bolesh said, adding that he will also participate in domestic language study with the program this summer prior to his trip overseas. “Also, I eventually want to do the Peace Corps and/or go to grad school outside the states, so this is a critical stepping stone to get out of my comfort zone.”

The AFLI French Program, sponsored by the National Security Education Program, is a special initiative of the Boren Awards for International Study. The summer program is administered by the University of Florida, while the overseas portion is overseen by the American Councils for International Education. Abroad, scholars participate in intensive small group language instruction (in class and conversational sessions) with language partners in a range of settings.

“Boren scholarships provide funds to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad,” said Duane H. Smith, Ph.D., a scholarship adviser and assistant director of career education for the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) at New College. “Central to the student’s international study experience is the study of a critical need language—in this case, the study of French in an African francophone country.”

Previous New College of Florida Boren scholarship (undergraduate-level award) recipients included: Val Bacharach (Estonia, 1995), Scot Kirksey (Indonesia, 1998), Isabella Cibelli du Terroil (Azerbaijan, 2020), and Alana Swartz (Japan, 2020). In 2021, Hailey Greeney McGleam received a Boren Fellowship (graduate-level award) to support her participation in the Johns-Hopkins-Nanjing Center program, which was held in Taiwan this past year.

Bolesh (who is originally from Flackville, New York), worked alongside a team at New College to secure the Boren scholarship. Assisting him were Smith; Associate Professor of Anthropology Erin Dean, Ph.D.; Professor of French and Gender Studies Amy Reid, Ph.D.; and Assistant Director of Off Campus Study/Study Abroad Florence Zamsky, Ph.D.

It was Dean who gave Bolesh the book Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal (Duke University Press, 2018), which provided him with the tools to write a captivating essay for the Boren application.

“I believe that the solutions being employed by the Dakarois and, by extension, the Sénégalais, are critical to understand (for waste management in general),” said Bolesh, who transferred to New College as a sophomore from Clarkson School/University. “These past three semesters at New College have been nothing short of transformational for me, and—using what I’ve learned from the Boren program—I wish to eventually institute a bio-digestion system here at New College for my thesis.”

For more information on the Boren awards, visit borenawards.org.

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.