Boling earns a Fulbright

Jessica Boling recently won a Fulbright Fellowship to study in the African nation of Cameroon. - Contributed
Jessica Boling recently won a Fulbright Fellowship to study in the African nation of Cameroon.
— image credit: Contributed

One young woman with deep roots in Coupeville is branching out into the bigger world.

“I am a small -town girl at heart, but I am only this way after experiencing many different cultures and living in various places in the U.S. and across the world,” said Jessica Boling, 27, who has lived in Boston, France, Cameroon and Korea since graduating from Coupeville High School in 2003.

Boling is currently working in Korea. She went there for an “adoptee’s trip home” sponsored by the Holt Foundation, which helps international adoptees travel home to explore their origins. She spent three months with a host family and the Holt organization subsidized her stay so she could teach English.

Jessica was born in South Korea, and adopted by the Boling family when she was four months old. She grew up just outside Coupeville on a farm in Ebey’s Prairie with her parents John and Linda Boling, older brothers Grant and Douglas, and a younger sister Lyndsay, also adopted from Korea as a baby.

After her three-month “trip home,” Boling rented an apartment in Seoul and went to work as the interim executive director of Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (G.O.A.L), an organization that provides services to adoptees returning to Korea.

“Our aim is to help with the transition into Korean life and assist with the birth family search,” Boling wrote in an e-mail interview with an Examiner reporter

“Jessica has always been a traveler,” her mom Linda Boling said. “We always had exchange students, so she and the rest of our kids were exposed to lots of different cultures and ideas as they were growing up.”

When Jessica Boling was 16, she traveled alone to France and Switzerland to visit several friends who had been exchange students in Coupeville.

She graduated from Coupeville High School in 2003, and received a degree in social work from Seattle University in 2007, graduating magna cum laude. She earned a Master of Arts degree with an emphasis on non-profit management and international social work from Boston College in 2009.

Boling has been traveling abroad for most of the past three years. She worked as a nanny in France for two years to polish her fluency in French. In early 2011, she traveled to Cameroon and volunteered there for three months. She made useful contacts with medical organizations and then made a proposal for a Fulbright Fellowship to study the relationship between donors and the causes they support.

In late July, she was awarded the Fulbright Fellowship, which begins in early 2013. Her thesis is that a better job could be done between matching donor money to actual needs in countries with a variety of social problems and health concerns.

“I will be doing a case study on a coalition of organizations that provide services to people living with HIV/AIDs in Cameroon,” Boling said. “Currently, there is a gap of between donors and Non Government Organizations (NGOs) and I would like to find a more effective way of giving aid at a grassroots level.”

While in Douala, Cameroon, on the coast of West Africa, Boling’s living expenses will be covered by the Fulbright Fellowship. She’ll spend the first month getting acclimated, the next seven months doing research, and the final month writing her thesis.

“I definitely expect to have hardships in Cameroon,” Boling said. “My biggest concern is the weather. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’m not well adjusted to hot and humid weather.”

The Fulbright Fellowship requires fluency in a foreign language, so her two years living in France were a boon, as Cameroon is a French-speaking nation.

“The political turmoil that we see in Africa does have me concerned at times, but Cameroon is a stable country,” she said. “I know it won’t always be easy, but I look to it as a learning experience.”

Boling said she hopes to be an inspiration to future graduates from Coupeville High School.

“I also hope my experiences will help other Coupeville graduates, especially minority graduates, to realize that although we come from a small town, we have the ability to influence at a global level,” Boling said. “I mostly thank my parents and their efforts to push me to be a global citizen and instilling a sense of social responsibility in me at a young age.”


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