Hi everyone, I'm an ex-Boren Scholar and I'd like to share a few things that I wish I had known through the Boren process and after receiving my Boren.
1. On the Boren Scholarship, you have 31 days of travel maximum and you can only spend them two weeks at a time which means if you are staying for a year and you want to go home for Christmas, you can only be home for 14 days maximum. I stayed in my host country during my Boren, but many of my other cohort members who were Boren decided to return home and were left with 0 travel days when they returned for the second semester. You also cannot travel when you have class days unless you have a letter from a program director, you will also need to fill out travel requests which tell the Boren staff exactly where you will be staying at least two weeks before your trip. I do however know Borens that do not tell IIE about their travel, but I would never do this and so shouldn't you. You can travel without wasting your days before your program starts with your own money or after you program ends with your own money without telling IIE but during the program, you can't.
2. If anyone here is applying for a country with a travel warning, prepare yourself mentally if you get the Boren because you will not be going to that country at all. Not even to visit, this is specifically relevant if you are applying to study in Russia or Ukraine. We cannot even travel to those countries for tourism during our Boren. I met many Russian applicants in the orientation who really wanted to go to Russia or Ukraine but they were being sent to Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, I felt so sorry for these kids, so please prepare yourself mentally to not cross the border, this can be especially depressing to those who are studying in border cities.
3. There are multiple complaints (including angry complaints) in the private Boren group about the service requirement. The impression overall is that Boren does not really help you vitally in getting employment with the federal government but it is a good milestone for other competitive scholarships such as Pickering or Rangel or Paynes. I am not in this stage yet but this is what I have seen written.
4. My biggest shock during my Boren was meeting Borens (this is not all Borens; it was just an experience I had) who had absolutely 0 passion for their areas of respective study who just thought it would be a practical language to learn. As can easily be seen, the majority of Borens are PoliSci or IA or Global Studies majors, there was also a slight lack of diversity. Boren wants to see you have a clear path for your language and how you will use it in your government job, you should connect the dots in your essay. This is not like CLS where creativity and passion are heavily valued, Boren merely requires a clear track of you studying the language because of its specific mission. This is why some Borens do not get awarded a CLS.
5. The IIE staff can be a little difficult to deal with at times but they are nice.
6. Do not be disappoint if you do not get the Boren or are named alternate, it does not make you any more or less of a person. I personally met an alternate who did not have a clear career track in their resume and a Boren who did for the same language. Ironically, the alternate had much more passion for the area and showed more curiosity for the people living in the area and understanding them than the Boren awardee who just thought it was a good language to have. Having a Boren does not define you as a scholar, and you should not let it define you.
7. Despite its flaws, Boren is a great program that allowed me to study abroad when I just did not have the financial means to do so. It is a great opportunity which distinguished me when I met my congresswoman. Inflate your costs in the budget email! Remember to keep in mind the possible change in currency now that the dollar is so weak! Do not sell yourself short, I also know Borens who did not inflate their costs and tried to be frugal only for them to deeply regret it.
Feel free to ask me any questions, in the year I applied, all Fellows got a budget email and a week later all scholars got a budget email.