This interview with Boren Fellow and CLS Scholar Darci Pauser (MPA/IR) is republished from the Fall 2013 Middle East Studies Program Newsletter. Thank you to the MESP program for the republication permission.
Why are you interested in Turkey?
My interest in Turkey is actually somewhat of a coincidence. When I was 17 years old, I was attending community college and studying anthropology, and was working as a babysitter. One woman I worked for asked me to accompany the family on a three-week trip to Turkey to visit relatives. It was the first country I had been to outside the U.S. and I was completely enamored. And as a student of anthropology, I took great interest in the Turkish language and culture. When I transferred to the University of California at Berkeley the next year, I began my study of the Turkish language.
Although I discontinued study of Turkish after graduation, I found new meaning in the study of the country while applying to graduate programs. My interest in Turkey now spans from cultural and linguistic, to political and strategic. Turkey occupies a special position on the global stage, geographically as well as developmentally and politically. A chance trip across the globe at age 17 has led to study in a country that is now fundamental to my academic program and future career. It will be fascinating to see how Turkey develops in the coming years.
What academic work have you been doing in Turkey?
Currently, I am working on research to present in November at the Association for Middle Eastern Public Policy and Administration (AMEPPA) Conference here in Ankara. This research explores Turkey’s sustainable development policies, particularly as they relate to European Union candidacy and accession. I am interested in how Turkey is attempting to comply with EU environmental policies. The crux of the problem is that these policies arose out of European-specific concepts of policy implementation and institutional frameworks and may not be compatible with Turkey’s own development situation. I hope to create policy solutions that will address the needs of both parties.
These kinds of policy conflicts have implications not only for Turkey, but also for the future of global environmental agreements in general. However, Turkey is an ideal example of the intersection of these interests.
Next semester, I plan on continuing my research with the help of advisors at the Ankara University Faculty of Political Science. I will also take two courses, taught in Turkish, on topics related to international relations and economics.
What have you accomplished professionally during your stay?
In mid-October, I completed an internship at the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK), where I wrote news articles, op-eds and a book review for the organization’s various media outlets. I also gave a final presentation on the future of climate change negotiations.
There are not as many think tanks in Turkey as in the United States and internships are also not very common. Working at USAK was the most ideal situation I could have imagined. I was able to interact with Turkish international relations researchers, attend presentations of their work and share my own work. I hope to continue my relationship with this organization in the next seven months of my stay. Additionally, I have been in contact with Turkish civil servants whom I met through the MPA/MAIR program at the Maxwell School. They have been of great support to me in my academic endeavors here.
I understand that you had been awarded both a Boren Fellowship and a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS). What would be your advice/recommendations to other students interested in these programs?
The CLS and Boren Fellowship are two very different programs. While the CLS encompasses one summer of study and is very structured, the Boren can fund up to one year of study abroad and is very student-driven. Moreover, although the Boren is mainly for language study, the application for graduate students includes a research project that must be relevant to national or international security, broadly defined.
The CLS is ideal for students of all academic subjects who would benefit in their studies or future careers from language learning. If you have a compelling reason to study the critical language, you are a good candidate for the CLS. Additionally, at least some experience in the language and/or opportunity to continue study in the language upon your return to the U.S. will buttress your application. In contrast, the Boren Fellowship is geared more towards those studying subjects that relate to security issues and includes a one-year requirement of service in the federal government following its completion.
However, many academic subjects can be relevant to security. For example, my proposal argued that environmental security issues, such as natural resources and transboundary pollution, will become increasingly important for global and national security. Thus, a Boren candidate need not be interested in national security in the traditional sense, but should have an interest in working for the federal government. In addition, Boren applications should include as much detail as possible of how the candidate will carry out their program. Again, the Boren is very student-driven and so the Boren selection committee will need to know that the candidate can arrange every aspect of the program—including budgeting, institutional sponsorship, housing and language courses—with no logistical aid from the Boren Commission. Applicants should also note that an internship with a U.S. government agency during the Boren program is not allowed.
How have these two programs enhanced you language proficiency?
The CLS incorporated language courses with cultural knowledge courses, language conversation partners and field trips. This was a great, well-rounded way to learn Turkish. The Boren has allowed me to form my own path towards proficiency, through attending presentations in Turkish at my internship, interacting with Turkish researchers at the upcoming conference and attending academic courses taught in Turkish, in addition to taking formal language courses.
What are your professional goals and how will your time in Turkey assist in achieving them?
After graduation, I plan to join the Foreign Service in their economic track. Knowledge of a critical language, as well as the opportunity to live, study and conduct research abroad, will hopefully aid in this career goal. The State Department seeks officers who they know can successfully live abroad and make connections with local residents. Moreover, receipt of the Boren makes me eligible for the Diplomacy Fellows program, which would allow me to skip ahead in the Foreign Service application process.
What is your favorite part of studying and living in Turkey?
For the most part, I enjoy novel experiences. I love being in a new place and figuring out the social and physical landscape. Turkey, in many ways, has an entirely different logic than the United States. It is fascinating to me how these differences between countries affect international relations. Learning the Turkish language is also fun and challenging and has forced my mind to stretch in new ways. On a more day-to-day note, I love how much attention is given to outdoor space in cafes, bars and restaurants and how you can get pretty much anything delivered to your door anytime. These small differences and discoveries make living abroad interesting and exciting.