Friday, February 25, 2022
Ben Partridge

Travel abroad provides an excellent opportunity to consider one's personal identity in a new cultural context. The Diversity Ambassador Scholarship program supports the diversification of students who study abroad by providing awards to students from diverse backgrounds and identities, many of whom are traditionally underrepresented on study abroad programs.

Up to ten $1,000 Diversity Ambassador Scholarships are awarded for the spring and fall semesters/academic year, and another ten scholarships will be awarded for summer and winter sessions.

Meet the 2022 spring semester recipients:



Sauda Abdullahi, a public health major from Des Moines, Iowa, is studying this spring with IES in London and Jamaica.

"I chose this specific program because I study public health and I believe it's important to study the concept of health with a well-rounded perspective. I'm also studying creative writing and love books, and London-and countries close by like Ireland- have a great history with literature. I've never really been outside of the United States so I'm looking forward to exploring different cultures, histories, and expanding my worldview."




Leah Cooke, a third-year English and creative writing major (minor in anthropology) from Saint Louis, Missouri, is studying abroad this spring in Italy through the Wells College Florence program

"I chose the Wells in Florence program because I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and not limit myself to only English-speaking countries, but I still wanted the option to take courses relevant to me, which typically comes with an English language university. Wells in Florence offers both, which made it the perfect program for me. To be perfectly honest, I’m most excited to eat! I absolutely love pasta and I can’t wait to experience the authentic versions of some of my favorite dishes."



Kevin Drahos, a third-year political science major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is studying abroad this spring on the USAC Madrid program

"I ultimately picked the USAC Madrid program because of its unique immersive structure. The program allows me to live on campus among other Spanish students while completing courses taught by experienced Spanish professors. I was attracted to the small size of the program, which will allow me to form close relationships with students across the world. Spain has a rich history with many opportunities to explore. The city is known for its museums and good food, both of which I love. I am most excited to connect deeper with Spanish culture through my education, new friendships, and travel."



Katherine Esquivel, a fourth-year psychology major from Hialeah, Florida, is studying this spring on the Iowa Regents Semester in Ireland program.

"I’m mostly looking forward to learning more about the differences in culture from the EU as compared to the United States and making friends abroad! What surprised me the most was how affordable study abroad could actually be and the vast availability of scholarships. I never planned on studying abroad while in college (even though that’s a “must-do” thing for some people during their college experience) due to finances. With my scholarships, this semester is actually cheaper than a normal semester at Iowa."



Carmela Furio, a third-year English and creative writing and Italian major from St. Charles, Illinois, is studying abroad this spring on the USAC Viterbo program. 

"The amount of independence you're forced to learn is amazing. You think going away to college teaches you how to be independent, then you move to another country seven hours ahead of all your friends, where almost no one speaks English and where the cultural cues are all just two inches to the left. It forces you to grow, and quickly, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I feel like such a more complete person, like the way I view how I go about the world has evolved. I've always struggled with feeling connected to my Italian roots, and studying abroad gives me the opportunity to learn more about my family's culture. It won't fix my diaspora, I don't think anything will, but being able to place ourselves in a culture other than the one we grew up in lets us understand both ourselves and the world better, and that alone has given me the knowledge and strength to start to detangle my relationship with my heritage."



Tiffney "TJ" Grimes, a third-year computer science major (minor in Korean studies) from Corydon, Iowa, is studying abroad this spring on the Korea University Exchange program. 

"Studying abroad is very important to me since I come from a very small town with a population of roughly 1,500 people. I believe going out to see the world for longer periods of time not only gives me experience with being fully independent but also gives me a chance to be exposed to new cultural experiences I would not be able to experience anywhere else. I have always loved learning new languages and cultures. In high school, I learned bits and pieces of Spanish, French, and German, among others, but I was never able to learn a language that didn’t use the Latin alphabet. With this goal in mind and my love for music, I found a passion for the Korean language and decided to minor in Korean studies. In order to learn the language and culture more authentically and in a much more immersive environment, I picked to study abroad in South Korea as an exchange student."



Marianne Garces Grajales, a fourth-year communications major from Orlando, Florida, is studying this spring in Italy on the USAC Reggio Emilia program. 

I knew I wanted to go abroad as soon as I came home from my exchange program in high school. After living in Brazil as an exchange student, I knew I wanted to do something similar in college but in Italy so I could learn Italian, therefore I have been pursuing this dream since I was a senior in high school! I am most excited to live with a host family, go to Europe for the first time in my life, and learn a new language! 



Alex Hefel, a fourth-year political science and economics major from Peosta, Iowa, is studying abroad this spring on the SIT South Africa Social & Political Transformation program. 

"I chose to study abroad in South Africa not only for its beaches and scenery but also for its deep history and transformation following apartheid. As a political science and economics student, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn in such an interesting environment. I am excited to immerse myself within its cultures and experience challenges I’m not otherwise used to. I am most excited about the different types of experiences that I will get to be a part of with SIT. Getting to travel to the three biggest cities of Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town will allow me to learn about the country as a whole. I am really looking forward to going on excursions such as exploring the African safari and traveling to Mozambique."