Boren scholar Noah Albanese ’24 leverages study abroad experience in Taiwan to prepare for foreign service career

Noah Albanese
Noah Albanese ’24 spent the 2023 spring semester studying abroad in Taiwan.

Empowered by the Gettysburg Approach and supported by faculty mentors, Noah Albanese ’24 earned a prestigious Boren Scholarship from the Department of Defense, the first of its kind awarded to a Gettysburg College student. Albanese spent the spring of 2023 studying Mandarin in Taiwan and the experience, coupled with his liberal arts and sciences education, have Albanese primed and ready to tackle a career working for the federal government.

A political science and economics double major, Albanese learned of the Boren Scholarship through a Gettysburg classmate and worked on his application materials with the help of faculty advisors. The scholarship promotes long-term linguistic and cultural immersion. Scholars receive up to a maximum of $25,000 over 25 weeks to support continuous overseas study.

“I remember jumping up and down in my room when I opened the acceptance letter,” Albanese recalled. “I also felt a sense of responsibility. I had a recognition that people in the DoD believed that my Mandarin studies would become beneficial to U.S. national security. From there on, I knew I had to be serious about improving my language skills.”

Albanese at the Mandarin Training Center
Albanese learned Chinese at the Mandarin Training Center of National Taiwan Normal University.

Because Boren Scholars are required to include language study as a core element for the duration of the grant, Albanese sought out a program focused on Mandarin, one of the Boren Awards preferred languages. With China still closed off to tourists in the fall of 2022, he designed a proposal to study the language at the Mandarin Training Center of National Taiwan Normal University. Gettysburg faculty played a pivotal role in the application process and preparation for the trip.

“Political Science Prof. Douglas Page was very supportive in getting me through the application process for the Boren Scholarship and writing my recommendation letters,” Albanese said. “Prof. Yoko Nishimura of the East Asian Studies Department was also a huge supporter of mine through the process. I can’t thank her enough for pushing the College to accept my plan for study abroad.”

Born and raised in Japan, Albanese was bilingual in English and Japanese and was looking forward to learning Chinese as his third language in Taiwan. He became fully immersed in the language, people, and culture and adapted to his new environment quickly while spending 15 hours per week intensively studying at the Mandarin Training Center.

Albanese with four friends
Albanese with friends at a restaurant in Taiwan.

Living in the International House at Gettysburg, where he met fellow students from across the globe, helped him adjust to his new surroundings abroad. His broad-based educational background steeped in critical thinking and problem solving also allowed him to take a wide perspective of society as he sat in classrooms with fellow international students or engaged with the local people at markets and coffee shops.

“If I can project one message about what I learned in Taiwan, it’s that Taiwan is not just a piece on the geopolitical chess board,” Albanese said. “Despite all odds, the Taiwanese have built themselves a country with a rich economy and a thriving democracy. It’s important to keep in mind how these geopolitical issues affect them as of well.”

Gettysburg’s men’s cross country team
Gettysburg’s men’s cross country team huddles before a race last fall.

With a new language and a newfound global perspective, Albanese returned to campus for his senior year with renewed purpose to be a leader and engage with his fellow students, helping them figure out their own personal and academic goals. He served as captain of the cross country team, and utilized his new knowledge of Taiwan and China as part of the Eisenhower Institute program “Global Focus: Competing with China,” which explored the political, economics, and social history of China and how its decision-making process has evolved.

With assistance from the Center of Global Education (CGE) and Economics and Political Science departments, Albanese presented information about the Boren Scholarship and his study abroad experience to other interested Gettysburg students last December.

“I love the experience of traveling and learning new languages,” Albanese said. “If you ever get the opportunity, I think it is essential for college students to travel. It changes your perspective on the world and you learn something new about yourself. Gettysburg recognizes this and they do a great job encouraging students to take advantage of their study abroad programs. This has helped me become successful as I pursued my studies in Taiwan.”

Albanese presented
Last semester, Albanese presented his experiences as a Boren Scholar to a group of Gettysburg students interested in studying abroad.

As a recipient of a Boren Scholarship, Albanese will serve the federal government in a national security role within three years of graduation. With his experience, Albanese now has a leg up on the competition for those types of roles, joining a smaller pool of qualified candidates for federal jobs and clearances. With the growth and application of enduring skills like intercultural fluency, adaptability, and leadership during his time at Gettysburg, Albanese is ready to go after his goals and make the world a better place along the way.

“I would love to get a job where I can travel for a long period of time while serving my country,” Albanese noted. “That’s why my goal is to become a foreign service officer. For the next couple of years, I want to continue traveling. I’m currently applying to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer. Hopefully, I can pick up another language critical to U.S. national security there as well!”

Learn more about the enriching opportunities available to students through studying abroad.

By Corey Jewart
Photos provided by Noah Albanese ’24
Posted: 05/06/24

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