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Alumni Spotlight

Kelsey Montzka

Kelsey graduated in 2013 with a double major in English, linguistics emphasis and history, having worked in the Mary Ellen Ryder Linguistics Lab, the Boise State Writing Center, and English Language Support Program. Upon graduating, she received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant to Serbia in 2014 and has lived in Serbia ever since. Over the course of her Fulbright grant, she helped found a volunteer-based writing center at the university where she was teaching English. She decided to stay and teach as a faculty member in Serbia an additional year, thinking that this would be another calm year of teaching.

In fall of 2015, through happenstance, she began volunteering in the European refugee crisis. Her initial work was focused on assistance at the southern Serbian-Macedonian border, helping distribute food, water, and clothing, as well as providing emergency referrals to refugees in vulnerable situations. She has been involved in refugee work ever since, helping volunteers set up secure information networks in order to assist quick response to the every-changing situation.

In September 2016, she became the administrator of a refugee community center at the northern border between Serbia and Hungary, where hundreds of refugees were trapped. She remained at the Kelebija Community Center until it was forcibly shut down in January of 2017. In addition to field work, she also maintains an active presence with the volunteer group Are You Syrious, a Zagreb-based organization that releases daily news digests related to the European refugee crisis in particular and also publishes research and advocacy reports on abuse of refugees across the route. She will shortly be moving to Zagreb in order to further assist the organization.

When asked about her post-collegiate life, Kelsey says that “Life has taken me in a direction I could never have imagined when I first sat down at orientation and marked ‘English, linguistics emphasis’ on my major selection worksheet. My time at Boise State in the English department built not only a solid foundation of knowledge, but also helped hone the skills to apply it in a variety of situations. Whether in the field trying to innovate emergency rain-proofing solutions or in the classroom bringing the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates into a more relevant local context, I use my degree every day.”