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International studies senior heads to Zanzibar on Boren African languages scholarship


Roger Rayhbuck will participate in a four-month immersion program in Zanzibar. (Photo: Diane Daniel)

  • May 16, 2011

Roger Rayhbuck, a senior in international studies, is among a select group who will be studying from September through December at the State University of Zanzibar in East Africa as one of the first recipients of a Boren Award for International Study in the African Languages Initiative.

Boren scholarships provide American undergraduate students opportunities to study in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and are underrepresented in study abroad programs. 

The $10,000 African Languages Initiative, taught entirely in Swahili, will immerse Rayhbuck in the culture, economy and history of Tanzania. Within three years of completion, Rayhbuck will be obligated to work at least part-time for the federal government, which fits into his long-range plans to work in foreign service or for international organizations in Africa.

As missionaries, Rayhbuck, his wife Danita and five children lived for 13 years in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they became fluent in Swahili. He also was involved in teacher training and practical projects, while much of her time went to teacher training and reading instruction.

They witnessed Rwanda wartime refugee camps, faced scarcities of clean water and food and learned how to stretch meager funding.

Norman Bowen, CSUEB professor of political science and director of the International Studies Program, recommended Rayhbuck for the scholarship.

“Roger will be a major contributor wherever he goes; he thinks about his life in terms of service," Bowen said. "He has had a unique set of experiences. Formal study abroad will only strengthen his current balance of academic and practical skills. He will make a fine student ambassador for the university and for the country.”

Rayhbuck expressed hopes the study abroad will expand his language competency and enhance his understanding of the intricacies of economic and political development in an area of increasing security importance to the U.S.

But, academics have not always been integral to Rayhbuck’s life.

Now 56 and an administrator at the Fairhaven Bible Chapel in San Leandro, he had had a rich and diverse life, but lacked a college diploma when he walked into the CSUEB Welcome Center two years ago. He knew he wanted to finally earn a degree but didn't know in which field of study.

When the counselor learned of Rayhbuck’s international experience, she thought of Bowen. Within minutes Rayhbuck was in Bowen’s office for a long, information-packed discussion. Student and instructor are thrilled with how this match has worked out, and where it’s headed.

“Professor Bowen was so kind and encouraging,” said Rayhbuck. “He endeared me to the program, and I never considered another field of study.”

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