The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Nina Brekelmans '12 Receives Boren Fellowship for Language Studies, Gives Advice to Graduating Seniors

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Nelson A. Rockefeller Center alum Nina Brekelmans '12 was recently awarded a Boren Fellowship.  The Boren Fellowship provides up to $30,000 for a year of language training abroad.  Accepting the Fellowship commits Nina to at least one year of work for the federal government in the area of national security. 

Courtney Wong '15, a Student Assistant at the Rockefeller Center, spoke with Nina about some of her thoughts and experiences about life after Dartmouth. 

Courtney Wong (CW): How did Dartmouth prepare you for life after graduation? What are some of the skills that you find valuable today?

Nina Brekelmans (NB):  Specifically, I'm very pleased that I left Dartmouth with strong Arabic skills. As an undergrad, I spent a lot of time with the language and it has shaped my career goals.  In terms of my general Dartmouth experience, I've found that strong writing skills have been very crucial.  I am also grateful for Rocky-focused activities, such as my First-Year Fellow experience and the Rocky-funded internship I had, which allowed me to gain professional experience and spend time in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Civic Skills Training, MLDP and just having the Rocky community as resources were great.

It made me realize the importance of networking – the need to meet and keep in touch with as many people as you can.  It’s important to recognize how you’re carrying yourself and coming across to other people and I've benefited a lot from my past experiences at Dartmouth.  

CW: What are some of the things are you involved with now?
NB: I am currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Arabic Studies at Georgetown University.  It's a two-year program, and I am just about finished with my first year.  I am a member of a competitive running club in D.C., and I serve as the Treasurer of a graduate group on campus called Georgetown Women in International Affairs where we do awesome networking events for women.  For example,  we got to go to an event at the White House this term.  Being involved with this organization and meeting other graduate women interested in building up the support of women in the field of international affairs has been a great experience for me.    

CW: Can you tell me more about the Boren Fellowship and your plans with the award?

NB: I will be taking a gap year before completing my second year of graduate school to go study for a year in Egypt as part of the center for Arabic study abroad (CASA) program. Boren is funding my participation in this program.  They are giving me a generous amount of money to pay my tuition and and my costs to live for a year in Cairo.  It's a really intensive Arabic program and I'm really excited about it.  The Boren Fellowship also requires that I commit to a period of government service within 5 years of graduation, and so I'm now considering joining the foreign service for the state department afterwards.
CW: Any advice for graduating seniors?
NB: Hmm...let's see..
1. NETWORK! Meet as many people as you can, and be sure to stay in touch with contacts that are important to you. They'll be critical in giving career exploration and professional advice, and you never know in what ways people might be able to help.

2. If you will be starting a job, keep an eye out for possible mentors in your workplace. They'll really help you grow professionally and may open up further opportunities for you.

3. Explore and experiment. You're young, well-educated, and the world's at you fingertips. Always look for ways to continue your personal and intellectual growth.

4. If you have language skills, try to keep them up, if only with a little bit of reading or through speaking groups in your city.
5. Finally, stay connected to Dartmouth and the tremendous amount of resources it provides -- to professors you’ve built up relationships with to the alumni network. As an undergrad I regret not using the alumni network to investigate graduate schools or get a better sense of what I wanted to be doing.  Although I ended up in the perfect place, I think in evaluating my options I wasn’t as informed as I could have been.  So stay in touch with Dartmouth and don’t forget what you’ve learned at Rocky!
For more information on Boren Awards, click here

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences