Lincoln's Elena Shomos wins Boren scholarship trip to Albania

Released on 05/18/2011, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., May 18th, 2011 —
Elena Shomos
Elena Shomos

University of Nebraska-Lincoln senior and Lincoln native Elena Shomos will travel to Albania later this year on a Boren Scholarship to conduct research and learn the Albanian language.

Shomos, who has majors in French and international studies and a minor in political science, expects to graduate in August 2012. She will leave for her nine-month trip in early September.

"It is an honor to have been selected in this very competitive process," she said. "I will not only have the invaluable experience of continuing my study of Albanian language in Albania with native-speaker instructors, but I am thrilled to live in the city where my great-grandparents lived, and where I still have many cousins and family friends."

Shomos will study Albanian at Fan S. Noli University in Korce, Albania. She will examine the steps the Albanian government is taking to become a member state of the European Union and incorporate this research into her senior honors thesis.

Shomos is no stranger to spending large blocks of time in foreign countries. So far, of her four-year undergraduate career, she has spent only 1 1/2 years on campus in Lincoln and 2 1/2 years abroad. She studied Italian in Rome the summer after her freshman year. Then she spent two years studying international relations at the University of Bologna in Italy. Shomos is spending a semester taking French language and culture classes at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Besancon, France.

"My undergraduate career has been based on studying abroad," she said. "I want to pursue a career in international relations. Knowledge of foreign languages and an understanding of other cultures is necessary for success in the field."

Shomos said she is interested in Albania and its future because her paternal grandparents are Albanian. After her junior year in high school, she went to Italy to meet cousins who emigrated from Albania after the fall of the Communist regime in the early 1990s.

"The weeks I spent completely immersed in a new culture along with the tremendous connection with my newly found relatives ignited my desire to design my undergraduate career around studying abroad," she said. Shomos was visiting Albania as she was completing her Boren application, and has seen first-hand the problems Albania faces.

"I have witnessed the difficulties that Albanians have in dealing with European bureaucracies, problems that could easily be resolved if Albania was a member of the European Union," she said.

When she was on campus last semester, Shomos worked with Tyler White, political science lecturer and undergraduate adviser, on an independent study course about the European Union and foreign policy. White said Shomos is an intelligent, self-sufficient student with an international world view.

"She picks up languages well and is very curious about the world," White said. "I want people like Elena representing the U.S. abroad."

When she gets back from Albania, Shomos will go to graduate school for a master's degree in public affairs. She hopes to work for the American Embassy in Tirana, Albania, or to work with an international organization dedicated to the needs of the Albanian people.

"Elena is the type of person who could make a significant contribution to her host country if given the chance," White said.

The National Security Education Program Boren Scholarship provides support for U.S. undergraduates to study abroad in countries, languages, or fields of study that are considered critical to U.S. national security. These areas include Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The scholarships provide up to $10,000 for a semester of study or up to $20,000 for a full year of study. Seniors and juniors are awarded the scholarship to increase their knowledge of other languages and cultures. Freshmen and sophomores are awarded the scholarship to foster their interest in international affairs.

WRITER: Christine Scalora, Undergraduate Studies

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