New School MFA in Creative Writing student Jake Adler was recently awarded the Boren Fellowship and will spend 2017 in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, studying the Bengali language. An initiative of the National Security Education Program, according to its website, Boren Fellowships provide unique funding opportunities for U.S. graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Adler first heard of Boren Awards for International Study during his time as a Fulbright Scholar in India (2014-15) where he spent ten months in a Kolkata school teaching creative writing to children.
“I learned a decent amount of Bengali during my first stay in India, but after I left, I regretted not diving deeper into the language,” explained Adler. “I left India illiterate; I could get by verbally in Bengali, but I had no knowledge of the Bengali alphabet. The Boren Fellowship has offered me an opportunity to return to Kolkata and focus entirely on learning the language - including how to read and write.”
Adler said Kolkata is, “a hotbed of political and literary discourse as it continues to produce some of the subcontinent's best artists, thinkers and poets,” and, along with his goal of learning the language, he also hopes to grow as a poet and continue adding poems to his thesis project during his year abroad.