By Nicole Montero
After a high school study abroad experience in Kayseri, a large and industrialized city in central Turkey, Christian Ilarraza Colon was captivated with the country.
Now, he dedicates his studies to it.
“I chose to study international relations after studying abroad,” he said. “I was just fascinated by the complex web of Turkish domestic politics and how the U.S. interacted with them.”
Ilarraza Colon – now a junior at FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs – studied Turkish independently, with a desire to one day return to that country.
This year, with the help and support of his family and the faculty at the Department of Politics and International Relations, he was offered a Boren Scholarship to study in Turkey during the 2016-2017 academic year, as well as the Fund for Education Abroad scholarship and the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship.
“To be honest, I feel excited and humbled at the same time,” he said. “I was working on these applications throughout the year, all while having a full course load and working two jobs. I had planned everything around them before I even knew I was accepted. I am grateful to the instructors at the Green School, [particularly] in my international relations classes, for being so supportive of my endeavors.”
The David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program, a major federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills.
Out of the 820 applications received, Ilarraza Colon was among the 165 students awarded.
In exchange for funding, recipients work in the federal government for at least one year.
Ilarraza Colon would do this while studying Turkish at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul.
“I have been planning to apply for this scholarship since the first time I went to Turkey,’’ he said. “I knew then that I wanted to be involved in the federal government, but I owe my success to my colleagues, peers, professors and overall community for providing me with motivation, guidance and example.”
Ilarraza Colon also received a $10,000 scholarship by the Fund for Education Abroad, whose mission is to increase opportunities for U.S. students to participate in high-quality, rigorous programs through grants and scholarships.
“Studying abroad has become a form of public diplomacy – it opens doors, promotes language competency and helps students engage in a rapidly globalizing world,” said Jennifer Calvert, FEA executive director. “Generous donations to FEA make the dream of studying abroad possible for these high-performing students and help paint a more diverse, and truer, picture of American students abroad.”
In addition to studying abroad, Ilarraza Colon was offered the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship at Princeton this summer, where he will focus on public policy, as well as economics, statistics and writing.
“The PPIA fellowship is one the oldest programs of its kind in the U.S.,” he said. “It brings students that are interested in the public sector to study intensively for the summer at one of their institutes – and mine is at Princeton.”
Ilarraza Colon hopes to attend Princeton for graduate school. He said he is grateful to FIU for everything he has achieved.
“FIU and the Green School have given me the opportunity to excel and form relationships with the community,” he said. “I have set a high bar for myself. I always think that there is room for improvement, that there is always work to be done and FIU provides you with the tools to do it.”