Home away from home: Boren scholar White returns to Japan


by Eric Gorton

Boren Scholar Adam White
Adam White is one of three JMU students who received Boren Scholarships this year to study languages abroad.

March 2014 update: Adam White is a 2014 finalist for a Truman Scholarship. The story below from the fall of 2013 is about his work as a Boren scholar.


Adam White jokes that he doesn't know enough Japanese to request a date with a native Japanese speaker, but by next summer that barrier should be bridged.

For the next nine months, the JMU sophomore will be studying Japanese in Japan as a Boren scholar. White learned in May that he was one of three JMU students chosen for the scholarship that provides $20,000 to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Also receiving the scholarship were Victoria Berdini, who is studying Zulu in South Africa, and Andrew Reese, who is studying Swahili in Tanzania. All three students are in the JMU honors program and majoring in international affairs.

White is no stranger to Japan. He made his first visit there when he was in high school and returned in mid-August from another seven-month trip as part of another program to learn the language and how to teach English to Japanese students.

He said his interest in Asia began as a small child when he had a friend who was Chinese. He made Japanese friends during the summer of 2007 when he participated in a high school diplomats program that brought 36 American students and 36 Japanese students together for a 10-day cultural exchange program in Princeton, N.J. The following summer, White was accepted into the second year of the program and went to Japan for three weeks. He has kept in touch with many of those students through Facebook, he said.

After graduating from Deep Run High School in the Richmond area, White went back to Japan on a six-month service trip.

While in Japan on the Boren Scholarship, White will take courses in Japanese politics and foreign policy in addition to intensive language courses. He may also take some writing courses. He will not return to JMU until the spring of 2014 because next fall he will be studying in South Korea on a scholarship he earned from the International Network of Universities, an organization JMU is currently president of.

Hamburgers are what he misses most during his travels to Japan, White said. "You can't get just a red, white and blue juicy all-American burger. They have McDonald's, but it's just not the same.

As for his goal to become fluent in Japanese by next spring, White said, "I think I will be able to not just get a date, but keep the date and talk to her family."

White said his career goal is to work for the U.S. government, ideally doing service in East Asia.

Berdini, a senior who will graduate in May, is traveling abroad for the first time and is living with a family in South Africa to maximize the immersion experience. She spent eight weeks preparing this summer by attending the African Languages Institute at the University of Florida.

"I decided to study Zulu because I wanted to study abroad in Africa and this seemed like a great way to get me there," she said.

In addition to language courses, she will be taking a history/culture course and maybe an African politics course. She will also get to do some traveling in Africa and already has a trip planned to Swaziland.

Berdini said her career goals include obtaining a doctorate degree and joining the Foreign Service.

By Eric Gorton, JMU Public Affairs

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Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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