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Military Veteran and Boren Scholarship Winner Carrie Chugg Talks Educational Success and Views on Living a Happy Life

Military veteran and mother, Carrie Chugg has proven herself in a number of remarkable ways, but possibly one of the more distinguished moments was her recent recognition as she earned a Boren Scholarship in April of 2018.

The Boren Awards, which provides funding in the form of a scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students seeking to obtain long-term linguistic and cultural immersion abroad, is sponsored by the National Security Education Program and administered by the Institute of International Education.
After having spent six to eight months in the application process for the scholarship, Chugg received an email that would change her life. Eligibility for the scholarship required her to be willing to commit at least one year to serving in the federal government, centered on language and culture. For Chugg, that focus is the study of Arabic. She will spend one year in Morocco honing and expanding her language and culture skills.

Boren scholarship recipients studying in Morocco have a unique opportunity to interact with a mix of cultures in a non-traditional study abroad setting. Moroccan cultural diversity is reflected through both the large number of spoken languages and the eclectic ancestry of Moroccan people that includes French, Spaniards, Arabs, Jews, and Berbers.

Prior to her military career and receiving the award, Chugg was working at an insurance company, dreaming of getting out of the office and pursuing more ambitious goals. “I dreaded getting up and going to work in morning,” she explained. As the mother of two boys, she focused on ensuring that her children were happy and truly knew what to look for in life, but when a tragedy struck close to home, Chugg received a new look on life. She had come to the realization that if she was unable to make herself happy, there would be difficulty in raising her children to be happy and assured individuals. “I felt like that was the most important thing to teach them,” she added.

One day, while still living in Buffalo, she took her children to Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park to experience Navy Heritage Week. She watched as they played and enjoyed the sunshine. While there, a Navy recruiter who was close by began a conversation with her. That conversation would spark her curiosity in delving into the life of the military, it also acted as one of many chance encounters that would lead her to pursue her love of language and culture. She took a leap of faith and went to boot camp. Upon completion, she joined the Navy and began her studies in language analytics.

This new life proved to have its fair share of challenges, however. Though she admits that boot camp was never particularly terrible, it was the separation from her two sons during her time at the Defense Language Institute that took a toll on her mental well-being. “I think it kind of hit me that I wasn’t with my children. I had massive amounts of anxiety about not being with them and then struggling to with language. I could see all these young people around me understanding the language faster than I was, so the anxiety of not being with my boys, and also thinking I wasn’t going to be successful in [language] school affected me greatly,” she described.

Despite the stress, she was still able to keep in contact with those most precious to her. Knowing that not only did her children have a strong support system from both her family and her ex-husband’s family, but that she did as well. She overcame the constant stream of doubts and thoughts of defeatism, decidedly handling any obstacle that stood before her. From being older than her teammates and having to learn a new language, to living a far distance from those she loved, her resilience to overcome challenges was abundant.

After her time with Navy, Chugg was ready to continue her education. She chose the University of South Florida (USF) for a number of reasons, the first being weather was much more enjoyable than snowy Buffalo. She also enjoyed life on the coast and wanted to have that connection with the water while still traveling from San Diego to the East Coast. Chugg was also drawn to USF due to the university’s achievement in surpassing Texas in being the number one four-year school for veterans. It was this last reason that weighed heaviest in her decision to attend USF to pursue International Studies with a minor in Intelligence Studies.

During her time at USF, Chugg tutored a number of international students including those from Morocco, Qatar, Oman, and other places in the Middle East. She worked diligently to maintain fluency in Arabic, while also consistently being exposed to the culture and language through podcasts. She has kept an open mind when it comes to politics and different perspectives, opening herself up to a number of news sources that provide information in any number of ways.

After having fallen in love with the beauty of the language and the Islamic culture, Chugg also knew she wanted to learn more about one of the issues that is entangled with the religion she had come to appreciate: radicalization and terrorism. “One of the biggest challenges we have in combatting terrorism isn’t just like stopping active plots. You have to go deeper than that. You have to go further back to the root of the problem, and that’s how do people get radicalized. What makes them join these groups and want to commit acts of terror like this?” she explained. It was a topic that she knew she wanted to continue to explore and traveling abroad would enable her to do that.

Hard work, dedication, persistence, vigilance: these are just some of the qualities that Chugg has developed and strengthened since she began her journey. From her time in the Navy to being an intern for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to being a professional student, while juggling duties of mother hood, she is a terrific example of perseverance and resilience. It was characteristics such as these that made Chugg a prime candidate for the Boren scholarship.

“Generally, I just want to be happy with what I’m doing and I want to contribute in some meaningful way,” said Chugg. “Specifically, I want to be a counter-terrorism analyst in the intelligence community. Whether that’s at the National Counter Terrorism Center, which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or if it’s within another agency.” Through her words and through her actions, Chugg’s ambition to continuously move forward is clear, as she strives to achieve something new each step of the way in life.

“It just seems like it’s going exactly where I am supposed to be going in life at the moment. I am very excited.”   

For more information about the Boren Award, please visit:

Filed under:Arts and Sciences Student Success    
Author:Michelle Holden