Chosen from thousands of applicants from colleges and universities across the U.S., eight University of Iowa undergraduates were awarded the competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Gilman scholarship recipients receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies -- making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.
Meet this year's recipients:
Allison Steger is a fourth-year history major (minor in German and certificate in museum studies) from Dubuque, Iowa.
"I want to work in the museum field, specifically in collections management. I have a passion for studying Cold War German history, especially the social and economic impacts of life in divided Berlin and life after reunification. Germany seemed like a great fit because I would be experiencing and seeing Berlin rather than just reading about it in a book. I also decided to intern in Germany because they have a lot of museums, so I can get hands-on learning with a subject I’m interested in and I could improve my German skills when I’m there.
Studying abroad is important to me because it helps expand one’s awareness of other cultures than your own. It also provides you an opportunity for independence and building your skills, which in turn will help one build their future. I have never gone outside the United States so I was really excited to use my German skills there, learn more about the culture, and experience what I want to do for a career, but unfortunately, my internship was canceled because of COVID-19."
Anissa Forero is a second-year double-major in genetics and Spanish from Cedar Falls, Iowa.
"The program I chose was the CIEE Summer Community Public Health. I decided to study in this program because it offered a great bridge between my love for science and my love for Spanish. The Dominican Republic also offers a rich culture and diverse perspective that I have not been able to see from living in Iowa. However, I really chose this program to connect with my grandparents, who are Colombian immigrants. I thought that if I could learn to adjust to the Dominican Republic, nothing would stop me from finding another home in Colombia. That is why this study abroad experience is important to me, but I also encourage others who are able to travel to do so. There are a lot of different ways of living than our own, and just because they are different does not mean they are wrong. We have a lot to learn from each other, and studying abroad is one of the ways that we can connect. When we embrace others and their cultures, rather than pushing them to assimilate, we all benefit from the richness of diversity."
Joycelyn Jorbedom is a third-year public health student (minor in Spanish) from Burnsville, Minnesota.
"I decided that I wanted to study abroad in the Dominican Republic for multiple reasons. Primarily because I’ve always been fascinated by the rich culture that is present in the DR. The fact that the program was also taught in Spanish, and that I would live in a Spanish speaking country was also a huge factor. I knew it would be an amazing opportunity for me to practice Spanish within the context of my major in public health, and learn how to communicate on a colloquial level.
Studying abroad is important to me because it would provide the opportunity to immerse myself into a different country, and their culture and their way of life. It’s an invaluable experience as it would force me to confront a new perspective in life, and adapt and adopt other ways to approach life and situations. This program would also allow me insight into another healthcare system and its approaches that I may have never even considered. For me, studying abroad is not a resume builder it’s a chance for me as a student and as a person, to evolve and grow."
Rebecca Lara is a second-year education major with a specialization in English and minor in Spanish from West Liberty, Iowa.
"The study abroad program I had anticipated participating in was the Iowa Hispanic Institute which would have taken place in Spain. The reason I chose Spain to study abroad was to strengthen my Spanish speaking and writing skills and to broaden my understanding of the culture of Spain. I knew the way to fully immerse myself in the language was to be in a setting where it is a prominent language. Studying abroad is important to me because it is an excellent way to experience new cultures and build connections with others that you would have never been able to do from thousands of miles away. By living in new surroundings and exploring a new country you are able to learn more about yourself and also gain independence. Overall, studying abroad is a unique way to gain self-knowledge while also gaining knowledge from classes that are catered to your interests."
Julie Weng is a third-year neurobiology major from West Des Moines, Iowa.
"I decided to study abroad in South Africa because of my interest in how healthcare works around the world, and how it contributes to my passion to help others. In this program, I am able to shadow physicians and volunteer in health-related settings. I am also able to learn more about the HIV/AIDs epidemic occurring in South Africa. Besides healthcare, I can also experience the culture and typical lifestyle of South Africans which are valuable experiences that I would never be able to gain elsewhere.
As an aspiring physician, being able to learn more about medicine in a foreign environment will allow me to see the diversity in medicine, and how it is practiced around the world. I know that this experience will change the way that I hopefully practice and view medicine in the future as well. Studying abroad will also give me the chance to grow and develop interpersonal skills that will assist me throughout my life. It will also shape my outlook on healthcare globally rather than just domestically.
Studying abroad is important to me because this is truly a once in a lifetime experience for me to learn and immerse myself in another country. It will also open doors to opportunities and allow me to connect with people that I did not before. As a student in the United States, it may be challenging to go overseas for an entire summer. This can be due to financial or time restraints, but this is why studying abroad is a gift, and one of the only chances that I will get to travel the world whilst being able to learn and make an impact on other people’s lives."
"I studied in Georgia my last study abroad trip to improve my Russian language skills. While there I fell in love with the culture, people, and food. I wanted to go back this summer with my internship to give myself professional experience but also to give back to Georgia in some small way. I think that you can learn much more from exchanges and experiences than you can learn in a classroom. Being able to talk with other people about their culture and learn misconceptions about American culture is extremely beneficial."
Leena Taha is a fourth-year Global Health Studies major from Coralville, Iowa.
"I believe this experience will allow me to apply cultural humility in many different communities and broaden my ability to work as a global citizen to overcome barriers of language and culture to provide culturally sensitive care. Studying abroad is important to me because it creates independence and an opportunity where you can expect to experience the rewarding challenges of research in an international setting while stepping out of your comfort zone. I believe studying abroad can also provide a setting where you can conceptualize the social determinants of health directly with vulnerable communities."