The Rewards and Challenges of Life Abroad
Two LIU Global alumni share insight on the William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India
By Rachel DeLetto
LIU graduates have always embodied entrepreneurial spirit and turned their own distinct passions into success. Alumni of LIU Global are especially exemplary of leadership on the road less traveled.
Two LIU Global graduates recently received the prestigious William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India, which places highly skilled young professionals with demonstrated global leadership potential with non-governmental and social organizations. Brittany Boroian (B.A. ’10) just returned from ten months in New Delhi. Bradley Wintersteen (B.A. ’13) is preparing to depart for his service term in Bangalore.
Both Boroian and Wintersteen began their college education in traditional university settings—Brittany at California Institute of the Arts, Brad at the University of Wisconsin. “I wasn’t getting much out of sitting in lecture halls. I wanted to help people in a real way,” said Wintersteen.
Boroian was fundamentally changed on a three-month program in Nepal. “It was like I was sleepwalking through life before that,” she said.
At LIU Global, they found what was missing. The Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies program is the only four-year degree that incorporates theory-based classroom learning with language and cultural immersion, fieldwork, internships, and real-world service from day one. Professors become mentors and friends, helping students to shape their academic study around individual passions and give them the means to explore it in an environment where their actions make a difference.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew Global would help me find it,” said Boroian. While studying in Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and India over the course of a year as part of the Comparative Religion and Culture curriculum—as well as working with refugees struggling in poverty on the border of Burma (now Myanmar) and providing financial services for the poor at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh—Boroian became inspired by microfinance, a term used to describe the supply of loans and financial services to low-income individuals and those who do not have access to typical banking services.
After graduating, Boroian worked with a microfinance organization as a Kiva Fellow in Nairobi, Kenya, followed by two years as a consultant on various microfinance and youth entrepreneurship projects as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay. But even in a remote jungle village in South America, India was calling her back. Fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and her Paraguayan homestay family were puzzled by her habit of cooking Indian food, listening to Indian music, and watching Bollywood movies. She applied for the Clinton Fellowship and set out to continue her journey and establish a new home in New Delhi. She was placed as a Livelihood Fellow at Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services, where she worked on business strategy and market analysis projects focused on providing skills training to help unemployed youth find work.
“There’s something hypnotizing about India,” said Wintersteen, who departs for Bangalore this September. Remembering a piece of wisdom imparted at orientation by Kerry Mitchell, Director of the Comparative Religion and Culture Program at LIU Global, who also became his friend, Wintersteen said that often when you are traveling, no matter how far away you are, most countries and people around the world look back at the United States as the center of the universe. But in India absolutely everything is different. “The minute you step off the airplane, it hits you in the face,” he said. “A whole new level of poverty, entire city blocks of tin shacks and children begging for food.”
“The caste system has been illegal for over 50 years but it still has enormous impact on daily life in India. I had to try to do something to help,” he said about his motivation to join the Clinton Fellowship for Service in India. Wintersteen, also a Livelihood Fellow, will work at Dream A Dream, an organization that is dedicated to reducing discrimination and the lingering impact of the caste system on Indian youth by building life skills through sports, art, outdoor excursions, and career mentoring.
One of the key tenets of the Clinton Fellowship program is that the Fellows are fully integrated into the local organization, giving back not as an outsider, but as part of the community. English is fairly prevalent in India, and both Wintersteen and Boroian have passable Hindi skills, but language barriers are a major challenge for people working in international settings. But both LIU Global alumni had similar advice for facing this obstacle and thriving in an international career: “You have to come to peace with not understanding everything,” said Wintersteen. “Accept the unknown and learn to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone,” echoed Boroian.
After many years of setting down roots in locations across the globe, both are unsure whether they will continue to work and live abroad or return to the U.S. more permanently. Right now, Wintersteen is looking forward to working with kids, the incomparably friendly hospitality of the Indian people, and their incredible food.
“It’s hard to say where I’ll go in the future,” said Boroian, who is preparing to return to India—this time Mumbai—where she will begin a full-time position with global development consulting firm Dalberg. “But I’m excited about where I am right now.”
This article originally appeared in the fall 2014 issue of LIU Magazine. Photo courtesy of Brittany Boroian @bboroian (Instagram)