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The hills of Costa Rica

SDSU students receive prestigious
scholarships for summer study abroad

By Michael Klitzing

Shania Bennet could hardly bear to look. The biology junior was certain that the email waiting in her inbox from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program was a rejection letter. It was, in fact, the opposite.

“When I saw that I had received the scholarship, I started to tear up from excitement,” said Bennett. “I could now study abroad and achieve dreams that were once far out of reach.

Bennett is one of several SDSU recipients of major scholarships for the Summer 2016 term. SDSU had six winners of the Gilman International Scholarship, a program that aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the destinations chosen by offering awards to students facing financial constraints. Awards can be as much as $5,000.

Bennett, who aspires to be a bilingual doctor, will study in Costa Rica and focus on medical Spanish.

“I chose this program because it does not set me back in my science classes, yet it was one of the longest programs available that would assist me in my medical school aspirations,” she said. “I’m most excited to become entirely immersed in the culture by living with a family under homestay.”

An eye to the future

Tajikistan may not sound like the most conventional study abroad destination. But for public health graduate student Vinton Omaleki, it couldn’t be more ideal.

“I chose Tajikistan because I plan to do public health/development work in the Middle East and Central Asia, Omaleki explained, “particularly in the Persian-speaking regions of Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other pockets in Uzbekistan, Pakistan and the Caucasus Region.”

As the recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), he’ll be able to take a significant first step towards achieving that goal this summer – becoming more comfortable with the Persian language. A program of the U.S. Department of State, CLS is a fully funded program for students studying one of 14 critical languages, including Persian.

“My hope is to become fluent in it,” Omaleki said. “I also want to make connections with organizations like USAID, WHO and Aga Khan Foundation in the capital Dushanbe.”

In their own words

Here are other SDSU students who have accepted the Gilman Scholarship, and what they had to say about receiving the award:

Mustafa Alemi
Class: Junior
Major: Political science, Arabic
Destination: Morocco
“I am very excited and humbled to win a Gilman Scholarship. It significantly helps with the cost of studying abroad, which was the primary reason I was hesitant to do so. I chose Morocco because of its rich history, diverse culture and fascinating location – historically at the intersection of Africa, Europe and the Arab world. The program I will be attending is an intensive, 8-week Arabic program. With Arabic as one of my majors, this will allow me to complete two semesters of the language in a fraction of the time.”

Theodore Bruni
Class: Junior
Major: English
Destination: Ecuador
“When I read the Gilman Award message, I had a cheek-to-cheek smile beaming across my face. In fact, I still do. As a financially independent student, the Gilman Scholarship was my only chance at studying abroad. I chose Ecuador because, as a non-traditional, first-generation transfer student, I wanted a non-traditional study abroad adventure. The focus of my program is a government internship in the mayor’s office in the city of Quito. I will also be enrolled in six units of coursework at Universidad San Francisco de Quito. I am so eager for this opportunity.”

Millicent Clayton
Class: Senior
Major: Social work
Destination: Costa Rica
“My first reaction was surprise, and I was honored and thankful to be chosen. I chose Costa Rica because I am taking Spanish and want to improve my skills. My focus is my four-week Spanish immersion class, but I am most excited for my community project. I will also be staying with a host family.”

Dennise Uribe
Class: Junior
Major: Criminal justice
Destination: Costa Rica
“I cried. As funny, as it sounds I was so happy to receive that amount of money because I was in desperate need of funds for my trip. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible to go. My focus there will be taking on two courses to fulfill my Spanish major requirements. I’m excited about the weather, my home stay experience and the chance to see what the school system is like over there.” 

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