Student receives Boren scholarship for unique educational journey in Taiwan

View of Taiwan from afar; Sun shining through clouds, buildings in the distance and nature like grass and flowers closer to the camera

A determined student with a resolute vision for his future, Randell York will embark on an adventure that combines his passion for accounting, cultural studies and language learning. A recent recipient of the prestigious Boren scholarship, which supports students studying languages and provides cultural experiences abroad in areas critical to U.S. interests and in fields deemed relevant to national security, York prepares to delve into a year-long immersion in Taiwan. 

An accounting and comparative cultural studies double major with a minor in Mandarin, York selected his areas of study based on his desire for broad knowledge and practical skills.  

Portrait photo of Randell York in suit and tie“My major was mostly chosen for its general breadth and utility—an accounting major can land a job in almost any form of organization,” he said. “As for my IGP major, the opportunity to pursue two majors for the price of one attracted me to NAU, and Mandarin was a natural choice because I wanted to explore a language as far from English as possible.” 

After spending his early years in the Philippines, and later residing in the Arizona desert, NAU in Flagstaff was a first in culture and climate.  

“Having experienced both the jungle in the Philippines and the desert in Arizona, I find Flagstaff’s autumn and winter particularly appealing,” York said. “The crisp air and soft snow create a picturesque scene, especially when it’s windy—clouds of snow dust getting blown around.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a remote second half to York’s senior year of high school, and York spent that time researching universities. He recalls an email from NAU’s International Global Program (IGP) delineating the opportunities for travel and cultural experiences while obtaining a degree. He had taken French and wanted to learn more languages and experience other cultures.  

In addition to making him the best financial offer, the decision to attend NAU was solidified by IGP’s unique opportunities and the course offerings related to his language and international interests. York is confident that his academic and extracurricular choices will lead to his dream work. 

“I think that my language and cultural studies will especially help with any relevant government positions that involve government interactions with mainland China and Taiwan, and my accounting degree can help with any form of government office setting,” York said. “Though I think that all in combination would be a great fit for working at, say, an embassy or consulate or something akin to that—foreign service officer, perhaps?” 

York began attending informational sessions on international scholarship programs hosted by the Office of National and International Scholarships and Fellowships (NISF) as early as his sophomore year. He recalls the Boren Scholarship as especially appealing because of how prominently the government featured within the program as well as the requirement for a year of service with the federal government. During his junior year, York applied to the Boren with the guidance and mentorship of faculty and staff, including Andrea Graves, academic success coordinator for the NISF office, who York recalls significantly helped him refine his essays and align them with the scholarship’s specifications. 

In addition to wanting to make the most of his educational journey, he also invested time in extracurriculars, most notably as vice president of the Chinese Culture Club. In this role, he fostered cultural knowledge and interactions among students, organizing events and sharing his passion for Chinese culture. The club’s events were meant to be social and relaxed, allowing students to practice languages and share culture in a low-stakes environment—events like hosting a Boba tea K-drama night, food-themed movie nights and regular mahjong game nights, including a mahjong tournament. While jumping from one task to the next to ensure the events’ success, he remembers them being a great time and him having fun pulling them off. 

“One time we spent about two hours before the actual club meeting making boba tea—decent-quality stuff in a nearby kitchen, and then we had to physically carry the huge old glass containers to our club room,” York said. “We served the boba tea drinks, received compliments on their tea and people talked while K-dramas played in the background.” 

York’s experience at NAU became more socially engaging—a stark difference from his first year when the COVID-19 response prioritized safe distancing. He recalls his residence hall being sparsely inhabited and having only one in-person class meeting twice weekly.  

“That was an interesting time,” York said. 

His most recent challenge was rising to the increased difficulty of his third-year classes while performing his club duties and working on his Boren scholarship materials.   

“Admittedly, it ended up being a grind. I stumbled here and there with particularly difficult classes and had to really hunker down,” York said. “I was eventually able to get my footing, but I feel like getting to experience the actual rough goings of things also probably helped me out—I won’t be as caught-off-guard when I accidentally stumble here and there again in the future, which is likely bound to happen, but hopefully in a long while from now, if at all.” 

Reflecting on his personal growth, York acknowledged the influence of his parents, who instilled in him valuable skills and a strong work ethic that have helped him navigate various situations. He’s glad to spend time with them and read for fun when free from work and school. As York looks ahead to his year of study in Taiwan, he is excited and ready, and his goals are clear.  

“I hope to significantly improve my language proficiency through immersion and deepen my understanding of Taiwanese and mainland Chinese culture,” he said. “This experience will not only enhance my personal growth but also contribute to my future career, potentially in government positions related to China or Taiwan.” 


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Cynthia Gerber | NAU Communications
(928) 523-7341 |

NAU Communications