URI senior awarded prestigious Boren Scholarship to study Portuguese in Mozambique

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 28, 2015 – Tiverton resident Alexandra Azevedo says the Portuguese side of her heritage has always been an important part of her life, but she never learned to speak the language. Now she doesn’t have a choice but to do so, and she couldn’t be happier about it.

The University of Rhode Island senior has been awarded a David L. Boren Scholarship from the National Security Education Program to spend a semester learning Portuguese in Mozambique.

“The program requires you to commit to learning a language that’s critical to the United States,” said Azevedo, a biological sciences and philosophy major. “Since my grandparents came over from the Azores, and Tiverton has a prominent Portuguese community, I picked Portuguese.”

Among the most competitive study abroad awards in the country, the Boren Scholarship is designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren awards provide undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the nation. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year.

Azevedo, who was recently inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, will leave for the University of Florida in June to begin a two-month introduction to the Portuguese language. From there she will travel to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique on the coast of the Indian Ocean, where she will live with a host family and spend her days studying Portuguese at the University of Eduardo Mondlane.

“Living with a host family will ensure that I immerse myself immediately in the culture and daily life of the locals,” she said.

While there, Azevedo plans to do an independent study or volunteer in a health care setting. She has always had an interest in science, and she developed an interest in public health at URI.

“With a career in medicine, I can use both my scientific and philosophic knowledge to make the most difference in the world,” Azevedo said.

The scholarship also fulfills her dream of studying abroad. “That was one of the things I really wanted to do in college, because of the impact it makes on people’s lives,” she said. “I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust, and the Boren is the perfect opportunity to study abroad in a way not many other students get to experience.

“The best part about the scholarship is that it arms me with a unique set of skills and opportunities that complement my career goals and benefit my community,” Azevedo added.

When she returns from Mozambique next winter and graduates from URI, she will begin to prepare for medical school, where she hopes to earn both a traditional medical degree and a master’s degree in public health. After that, she hopes to spend her year of required government service with the Centers for Disease Control or another public health agency where she could travel and continue using her Portuguese language skills.

“I’m not sure yet whether I want to be on the ground doing hands-on medical care or creating public health programs or be a hospital administrator or what,” Azevedo said of her future career path. “Those things will come in time and with experience. But one thing I know for sure is that I want to be a doctor and make a difference on the biggest scale I possibly can.”

Photo by Nora Lewis