Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Out of thousands of applicants nationwide, seven students from the University of Iowa have been granted a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which awards each recipient up to $5,000 to study abroad. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, these experiences offer students the opportunity to immerse themselves in diverse cultures, languages, and economies, fostering a deeper understanding of the world, and better equipping them with skills to excel in leadership positions within both government and the private sector. 

Meet this year's recipients: 

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Olga Colmenero is a second-year elementary education major from Muscatine, Iowa. She will be studying this summer in the United Kingdom on the faculty-led Creativity, Imagination, and Play in London program.  

“I can't wait to experience all the wonderful things that the United Kingdom has to offer.  

As a future elementary teacher, I envision this study abroad opportunity as a chance to learn a lot about another culture, and to make lifelong connections and meaningful relationships.  

Sharing stories and ideas with people from different cultures will help me understand their values, learn from different perspectives, and help me when I have my own classroom full of students with different stories.” 


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Yamam Hussien is a third-year neuroscience major (pre-med track) from Des Moines, Iowa. She will be studying this summer in Jordan on the SIT Refugees, Health, and Humanitarian Action program.  

“Due to my Middle Eastern roots, I chose to pursue an international education in Jordan to gain a stronger heritage connection. Having this opportunity will also assist me in strengthening my native language.  

This experience is the first step in achieving my long-term objective of helping others with my medical career. Studying abroad will allow me to have an in-person experience in the humanitarian and refugee field overseas.   

Studying abroad is important to me because it will give me the chance to gain knowledge that I would not otherwise have in the U.S., network with people around the world, and explore a new culture.” 


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Ngonyo Mungara is a fourth-year educational studies and human relations major from Muscatine, Iowa. She will be studying this summer in Accra on the faculty-led Ghana Education & Culture program.   

“The opportunity to learn more about schools in Ghana, engage with Ghanaian students, and learn more about a different culture was why I decided to apply to study abroad in Ghana. I also have not traveled internationally since I was a child so I thought this would be a great opportunity to do so while also learning! 

This experience will broaden my global perspective, helping me to become more culturally competent, and giving me a deeper understanding of different societies and cultures. It will also help me in the future by building international networks with professionals and students in Ghana. 

Studying abroad is important to me because it gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture and broaden their perspectives, and I think having a broad cultural understanding is essential for all careers. It also helps to facilitate personal growth by challenging us to navigate a new environment where there are different languages spoken and different cultural norms.” 


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Abigail Rodriguez is a fourth-year art major from Keokuk, Iowa. She will be studying abroad this summer in the United Kingdom on the faculty-led Creativity, Imagination, and Play in London program.  

“As an artist and aspiring art educator, I'm excited to explore the museums and galleries that showcase art from around the world and throughout history. The exposure to London's art, architecture, and history will enrich my creative abilities and allow me to incorporate cultural perspectives in my future teaching. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to study abroad in London and plan on taking advantage of every opportunity! 

In addition to learning important skills such as adaptability, independence, and intercultural communication, this program will also allow me to begin pursuing my MAT in art education; jumpstarting my academic career as a future educator. 

Studying abroad is incredibly important to me because I believe it will help me become a global citizen; someone who values diversity, appreciates cultural differences, and understands the importance of intercultural collaboration and communication. By studying abroad, I will have the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture and meet people from entirely different backgrounds, which will allow me to develop a greater sense of empathy and understanding toward others, which is important to me as a teacher.” 


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Ayah ElGaddal is a fourth-year international relations major from North Liberty, Iowa. She will be studying next fall in the United Kingdom on the Lancaster University Exchange program.  

“This experience will broaden my understanding of international affairs by providing me with the opportunity to be exposed to diverse perspectives when it comes to European, and especially U.K. politics, as well as global issues. Additionally, the United Kingdom’s proximity to other European countries made the decisions more attractive, as I will, hopefully, get the chance to experience other political systems, institutions, and cultural dynamics within Europe. 

As a student majoring in international relations, studying abroad provides me with a plethora of invaluable experiences – both academically and personally. Choosing to study abroad provides me with the opportunity to experience Europe firsthand (I have never been to Europe) and also foster my personal growth by broadening my horizon. This is because I will be pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and learning to adapt and navigate unfamiliar cultural and social norms – which I am truly excited about. 

From a professional and academic standpoint, I consider studying abroad valuable, especially to me because I want to eventually become a diplomat and work in the international human rights field. Gaining global perspectives on a variety of issues will only enrich my educational journey (which will also help in writing my senior thesis paper) and prepare me for a future in international law and foreign service.” 


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Molly McNeill is a fourth-year double major in world language education and Spanish from Afton, Iowa. She will be studying in Spain next fall on the CIEE Seville Liberal Arts program.  

“I wanted to study abroad in Spain because I want to improve my Spanish language skills and interact within an entirely new cultural context. 

I cannot imagine a way in which this experience won’t impact my future. For one, it will be an invaluable opportunity to improve my language abilities. But it will be more than that… I will also be able to experience a culture unlike my own. There will be so many opportunities to engage with the people, architecture, and art around me, and I am so excited to join in and make myself a part of the atmosphere. 

Studying abroad is important to me because it broadens not only one's cultural and academic horizons but also creates everlasting relationships with people from all over the globe! One of my biggest goals is to deeply connect with the people I meet and form long-lasting friendships while abroad.” 


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Cielo Posateri is a second-year (pre-law) double major in English and creative writing and international relations from Taylor Ridge, Illinois. She will be studying next fall in Argentina on the ISEP Universidad del Santiago program.    

“I chose this program for three main reasons. 1) As a Hispanic woman from a very small town, I have always craved the world and to feel more connected with my language and Latin brothers and sisters. 2) Argentina offers a wide array of global and law courses, giving me the opportunity to fulfill my major with new insights into another country. 3) I hope to build connections abroad to aid in my journey to becoming an international lawyer. 

I am very excited to go abroad to Argentina for a myriad of reasons, but the food, culture, and sense of community are definitely the factors that remind me how truly lucky I am to experience these adventures.” 


International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.