Alice Naghshineh, an economics, mathematics and Arabic major, is one of a record 19 University of Georgia students and recent alumni who were offered international travel-study grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Naghshineh, who is from Marietta, will use her study grant to research finance in Tajikistan. Her proposal is titled, “Advancing Financial Inclusion in Tajikistan: The Potential of Branchless Banking." 

Her trip to Tajikistan will find her focused on learning as much as she can about branchless banking methods in the Central Asian country that borders both China and Afghanistan.

Seeking to determine if branchless banking has the potential for providing products and services to the “underbanked” and “unbanked” in Tajikistan’s remote outposts, Naghshineh plans for extensive data collection and qualitative research during her Fulbright year.

“I will conduct interviews and surveys with professionals working within the field of economic development, so I can understand the challenges and capabilities of the supply side with regards to providing financial services,” she said. “I will similarly conduct interviews and surveys with Tajiks who may stand to benefit from financial services. This will help me to understand the financial needs and desire of Tajiks living in hard-to-reach parts of the country.”

A UGA Honors International Scholar, Naghshineh is accustomed to study abroad experiences, having spent a year—courtesy of a Boren Scholarship—in the United Arab Emirates polishing her Arabic and learning about Islamic finance and economics. She’s hopeful the care she took in her language studies will pay dividends in the field.

“I have worked hard to gain advanced language skills in both Arabic and Persian, along with a solid foundation in mathematics, statistics, and economics,” she said. “I have long suspected that I would enjoy using my language skills to collect data in the field to help inform economic development policies.”

While in Tajikistan, Naghshineh also plans to establish a data set on the financial needs of natives, something she saw was lacking during her summer 2015 program there. She also looks forward having access to different perspectives about finance and working with several organizations to learn more about the collaborative process of crafting economic development policies.

Naghshineh will work with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, the Association of Microfinance Organizations of Tajikistan, and the Center of Sociological Research, Zerkalo.

Away from work and study, Naghshineh says she looks forward to hiking the country’s mountains and joining a running team, and she says she’ll also volunteer at American Corner, where she will oversee a reading club of locals seeking to improve their English.

She’s also greatly looking forward to reuniting with the homestay family she lived with last summer.

“I developed a close relationship with my homestay family, particularly my mother,” she says. “I am excited to share more delicious meals and laughs with her.”

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers research, study and teaching opportunities to graduate students and recent college graduates in an effort to further mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries. The program awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study in over 140 countries.