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Photo courtesy of www.iie.org/GILMAN

 

By Ashton Moss, News Editor

Studying abroad is an opportunity that is presented to college students many times over the course of their time attending university. While the majority of students find study-abroad to be appealing, frequently it is financial trouble that leaves students unsure of whether they will ever be able to take advantage of their school’s programs.

This past semester at Illinois Wesleyan University, three students found a way to make the idea of studying abroad a reality – junior Christine Gawron and sophomores Gisel Lopez and Callie Phipps, who were all recipients of the Gilman Scholarship.

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program has been focused on making it possible for students to study abroad since 2001, emphasizing the importance of global study. According to their website, “International study is intended to better prepare U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.”

“The scholarship is directed towards helping non-traditional college students go to ‘not-typical’ places to study abroad. So, since I am a first-generation college student going to a Spanish-speaking country in South America, I applied,” Gawron said.

It seems that Phipps applied for this scholarship for similar reasons. She is also a “not-typical” study abroad student that felt her unique study abroad situation – studying abroad as a nursing student – gave her a competitive edge in getting this grant.

“While Spain is not really a unique destination, it is the only opportunity nursing majors have to study abroad due to differences in health regulations,” Phipps said. “IWU is rare in that it has a video chat system set up in Barcelona enabling nursing students to study abroad during the spring semester of their sophomore year and still take the required nursing classes on campus.  Because of the rarity of this type of program and because I have significant financial need, Gilman was willing to fund my trip.”

Lopez is also a nursing student going to Spain to take advantage of this unique opportunity that IWU offers for nursing majors.

“I feel that this will allow me to expand my knowledge about the health care system and how patient care is given compared to the US. I feel that this will give me a great opportunity to experience nursing in a different way, while interacting with locals and physicians, that will help me with my career,” Lopez details the nursing program.

“I’m studying in Barcelona and, when my classmates on campus begin their nursing clinicals, I will be spending time in a hospital in Spain for a once in a lifetime opportunity to observe another country’s health care system,” Phipps said, further explaining the nursing program offered in Barcelona.

While Lopez and Phipps are immersing themselves in the Spanish culture and the local hospital, Gawron is having a very different experience.

“In Bolivia, I will be studying Bolivian culture and society throughout the semester and, during the last month, I will be conducting my own research anywhere in Bolivia,” Gawron said. “I’m planning on researching the changes in culture and beliefs of indigenous people from generation to generation.”

Far more than just homework and test, studying abroad is about the experiences that go along with the studies, making it such a unique way to spend a portion of the academic term.

“Study abroad is way more than just academics,” Phipps said. “The IWU Spain program plans for us to tour many parts of Spain outside of Barcelona, such as Madrid and Zaragoza, while also providing ample time to travel on our own. In that time, I plan on spending a few days in Morocco, going to Germany to tour a concentration camp, the Netherlands to visit the Anne Frank museum and possibly to London for the Harry Potter Museum.”

“I have to say, I’m super excited to be living with a completely different family in a foreign culture,” Gawron said. “It’s going to be a bit hard, but fun, and I believe it’s the best way to get to know and immerse myself in Bolivian culture.”

Though both Gawron and Phipps may be going to two very different places, their ideas of what will be the best part of this trip are almost identical.

“I’m most excited to immerse myself is another culture, forcing myself to experience new things and finally learn how to step out of the comfort zone I so often restrict myself to,” Phipps said.

Both Phipps and Gawron are ecstatic about the opportunity that they have received with the help of IWU and the Gilman Scholarship.

“I strongly encourage anyone that qualifies for the Pell Grant to apply for this scholarship,” Phipps said. “Had I not done so, I would be missing out on so many life-changing experiences.”