The University of Iowa

UI undergraduates awarded prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship

February 15th, 2018

Two University of Iowa undergraduates have been awarded the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to study or intern abroad this summer.

Chosen from thousands of applicants from colleges and universities across the U.S., Gilman scholarship recipients receive up to $5,000 to apply towards their study abroad or internship program costs.  The program aims to diversify the students who study and intern abroad and the countries and regions where they go.  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.

Alex Marti

Alex Marti

Hometown: Waukon, IA

Alex will study in Chengdu, China, during the Summer 2018 session. A UI honors student, she is in her fourth year, double-majoring in health and human physiology and Asian languages and literature, along with pursuing a minor in chemistry and pre-medicine pursuits. 

Why did you decide to study abroad in China?
Being a Chinese and human health and physiology double-major, I knew when I started college that I wanted to study abroad in China to help advance my language and cultural proficiency. I thought it would be a great supplement to my formal education and an opportunity for self-growth and exploration. The only question for me was how to make it happen, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity.

How do you envision this experience impacting your future?
It is my ultimate goal to attend medical school, though I have already begun putting some thought into taking a gap year after graduation to spend a year abroad teaching English. I think this trip will provide a lot of insight as to whether this is the right choice for me. In addition, I think my experience will help prepare me for what to expect if I do decide to spend a year abroad in China.

Why is studying abroad important to you?
As a child, I did not have a lot of opportunities to travel. Now that I am older, I have had the chance to take a few small trips and have realized how important exposure to different perspectives and ways of life is to be an active and educated member of an increasingly global society. 

Shatiana Cooper

Hometown: Iowa City, IA

Shatiana will travel to Cape Town, South Africa, to participate in the SIT South Africa: Social Justice and Activism Internship during the Summer 2018 session. Shatiana is a second-year student, business direct admission and art double major along with a minor in psychology and she also is pursuing her Critical Cultural Competence certificate. 

Why did you decide to study abroad in South Africa?
I chose to study in South Africa because of its similarity of history with the U.S. It's a beautiful country with a lot to offer as well as a lot to work on in terms of becoming a socially advanced society (just as we do). I think my career goals will benefit from this internship because of the underlying basis of each field of study I am pursuing. I will be learning about the apartheid as well as working with community partners to advocate for human rights including but not limited to the aspects of gender, law, and the principles of social justice.  No matter what anyone chooses to study I think that being able to identify, accept, adapt, and promote the differences within others helps to create a flourishing workforce which inherently decreases the current issues that go on within it such as pay gaps and discrimination. 

How do you envision this experience impacting your future?
This experience will impact my future by gaining another perspective on life which will guide and determine how I will handle situations and events that come before me in the future. Also obtaining a certificate in Critical Cultural Competence will not only give me a competitive edge in any given application pool, but it will improve my work ethic and help me to become a well-respected and successful character by being able to indicate, appreciate, and respect the differences that come with each individual’s identity.

Why is studying abroad important to you?
This opportunity is crucial to me because it provides the authenticity that I could not get from a textbook, it is something that has to be experienced for oneself. By going through with this experience, I feel like I will have a greater appreciation for my life because it will expose me to another place in the world that isn’t as socially developed as Iowa. I wanted to participate in this experience because it’s a very important opportunity that not everyone is awarded, and it ties well into my academics.