USF students go global as Gilman scholars

For many years, Bulls have been charging around the globe with the help of scholarships. This summer, another round of winners have been chosen for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. 

The scholarship, which is exclusive to Pell Grant recipients, is sponsored by U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for underrepresented study abroad students. Among those considered “underrepresented” are community college students, those with significant financial need and those traveling to non-traditional study abroad destinations.

According to the program website, international exchange is intended to better prepare U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.

This year, out of the 1,000 accepted students, 12 are from USF. Those who received the award are traveling all over the world, from Costa Rica to China. 

Many of the USF recipients said they were surprised to receive the award.

Lisette Ortiz, a senior in anthropology and public health, said she applied to the scholarship without any expectation of winning but was awarded the scholarship for her expedition to Costa Rica.

While abroad, she said she will work to help repurpose used water, which is often lost in mountainous villages. 

Meanwhile, as Ortiz works to filter and redirect flowing water in the hills, Stephen Peck, a junior majoring in geology, will work elsewhere on the isthmus of Costa Rica with rocks. 

During each of the students’ abroad experiences, they will be required to take at least two classes and complete a follow-up service project that reflects their experience abroad. When he returns from Central America, Peck plans to volunteer at the study abroad fair in order to “maximize” the experience for others who attend.

For his follow-up project, recipient Marco Funez, a sophomore majoring in psychology, will create a “touring gallery” akin to “Humans of New York.” He will be in London and said he plans to ask the locals what significant event in their lives brought them to their current circumstance.

Scholarship winner, Alexander Elmy, also applied for the scholarship without high expectations. She had already signed up and been accepted to USF in London when she was waitlisted for the Gilman scholarship. However, she said, her story is different from the others because she was a teen mom and now has a 2-year-old son.

Even though she had obstacles, Elmy said she always found a way to overcome, and other students can, too.

 “If you want something, go for it,” Ortiz said. 

She emphasized that students should apply with low expectations so they are not disappointed if they are not chosen but very happy if they are.

Overall, different though the recipients are, all of them had the same message for potential applicants: go for it.

Three of the 12 USF winners are going to Costa Rica, including Peck, Ortiz and Tiffany O’Brien. Three are going to South Korea: Moe Muang, Myla Nguyen and Kathy Vu. The United Kingdom will be receiving two recipients this summer, Elmy and Funez. Alexandra Bolen is going to China while Laura Flores, Islam Ibrahim and Indira Ranaweera are going to Argentina, Italy and Spain, respectively. Each will spend at least four weeks in the country, per the regulations of the scholarship. 

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