Scholar Stories

Winter-Spring 2016 Scholarship Recipients

Neida Ahmad

Home University: University of Arizona
Major: Spanish & Psychology ’17
Studying In: Alcalá de Henares, Spain

As a bilingual child, growing up in a Pakistani family, Neida aspires to create more inclusive learning environments for young bilingual and ESL students. Neida says, “I want to be able to change the way we look at bilingualism in education. It should be treated as the advantage and skill that it is, instead of a hindrance.” Of her time in Spain, Neida, says she is anxious to see how students are taught in an environment that does not cater to their native language, suggesting, “the knowledge I will gain from this experience will ultimately allow me to better assist those who feel that they are being neglected by the current educational system.”

Ashley Etherton

Home University: Indiana Wesleyan University
Major: Exercise Science & Intercultural Studies ’18
Studying In: Klaipėda, Lithuania

The combination of studies in exercise science (pre-physical therapy) and intercultural studies seems an unlikely pairing, but Ashley has every intention to meld the two with a career in the global humanitarian workforce. While she will take classes in both disciplines during her time in Lithuania, it is the opportunity to learn how to adapt and thrive in a foreign environment that she most looks forward to and believes will best prepare her for her future. Ashley says, “My ultimate dream is to live abroad, offering physical therapy to those who don’t have access to quality medical care. I desire to eventually work with disabled ‘outcasts’ in rural India, offering healing, strength, dignity, and hope.”

Timothy McNinch

Home University: Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Major: Religion ’17
Studying In: Jerusalem, Israel

“The ultimate goal of language acquisition is not translation, but cognition and communication within the target language,” says Timothy. It is for this reason that he will be leaving the confines of an American classroom to study Hebrew in Israel. It is the full immersion in the language that Timothy looks forward to most, noting “Except for Skype calls home to my family, I will spend a full month speaking only Hebrew surrounded by street signs, billboards, TV shows, and eavesdropped café conversations in Hebrew.” This will fulfill a lifelong dream of his … not to decode a seemingly ‘dead’ language by American academic standards but to appreciate the beauty and culture of a language that has so pronouncedly shaped human history.

Elizabeth Sloane

Home University: Temple University
Major: English ’18
Studying In: Rabat, Morocco

While a high school student, Elizabeth gazed onto Lebanon from a vantage point in Israel. It was a transformative moment for her. She reflected on how the boundaries of national lines and cultures were nowhere to be seen on the Earth’s landscape, and moreover how cross cultural communication can bridge the gaps between borders and cultures, creating a landscape similar to that of nature. Of her time in Morocco, Elizabeth says her ultimate goal is cross cultural understanding. She suggests, “This awareness is essential to my professional goals of working in the Middle East or North Africa in the fields of education or food security, helping to strengthen communities through an understanding of how local cultures are impacted and can make an impact globally.”

Delaney Swink

Home University: University of Oregon
Major: Romance Languages ’17
Studying In: Rabat, Morocco

While in Morocco, Delaney will study human rights issues within the Muslim world and simultaneously improve her French and begin learning Arabic. She was drawn to the program because of its multiculturalism/human rights emphasis, its location in francophone Africa, and its research focus. Such things have piqued her interest since high school when she facilitated multicultural activities for a senior project and advanced human rights issues with Mercy Corps. Her time learning and researching in Morocco will significantly progress and enrich her academic development and professional preparedness for non-profit service. She fully anticipates the experience will “immeasurably impact [her] life.”

Adrián Villaseñor

Home University: University of Colorado
Major: Japanese & Linguistics ’17
Studying In: Kyoto, Japan

A Japanese language student, Adrián is “driven to bring the best of Japanese culture to the US (and vice-versa).” His passion ignited three years ago when he was first the recipient of Japanese hospitality. His host family selflessly sacrificed comfort and convenience to care for him. In the years since, he has worked to practice this same hospitality with exchange students in the Japanese Student Association as vice president; with middle school aged boys in his community as a volunteer; and with African communities as a member of a non-profit organization. This lesson in hospitality challenged him and prompted him to give back. Now Adrián seeks new and greater challenges from his return to Japan. For without the challenge, comfort settles in and entitlement finds a home, of which he says “is a recipe for bitterness and disappointment.”

Hunter Zhao

Home University: University of Michigan
Major: Evolutionary Anthropology ’18
Studying In: Athens, Greece

A first generation college student from an immigrant family, Hunter describes the opportunity to study in Athens as surreal. Moreover, the program offers a chance to study irregular migration patterns firsthand, per the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. The semester will include travel to Lesvos, Greece (one of the center points of many refugee paths), which will be pivotal in preparing for his future career in immigration and refugee policy making. To interact with the refugees directly, “having a physical, tangible experience is unquestionably the best way to humanize migrants,” he says. Often at the ‘crossroads of cultures’ himself, Hunter’s own history, cultural identity, ethnicity, and social relationships have given him invaluable perspective.

Fall 2015 Scholarship Recipients

Karina Gonzalez-Sanchez

Home University: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Major: Business Administration ’17
Studying In: Copenhagen, Denmark & Hong Kong

Over the course of the next year, Karina Gonzalez-Sanchez’s cultural fluency and adaptability will be tested as she bikes the streets of Denmark and navigates between the skyscrapers of Hong Kong. The premiere GLOBE program (Global Learning Opportunities in Business Education) will push her to be voluntarily vulnerable and teach her empathy, as she participates in case competitions within European and Asian companies, for the benefit of international clients. The competencies gained and relationships formed from the experience will inform her aspirations of working internationally in the area of technology and social welfare. Karina says, “I’m hoping that by being exposed to multiple perspectives early in my career, I’ll find a creative way to accomplish my projects and promote peace.”

Ruth Howell

Home University: University of Southern California
Major: Classics ’17
Studying In: Galway, Ireland

Studying classics and film at USC, Ruth Howell admits studying abroad initially seemed an extraneous excursion. As a future filmmaker, L.A. is the ideal location. Her opinion changed in the last year. She confesses, “Staying in the same city my whole life restricts my world view.” Aspiring to address social just issues, she understands a broadened perspective will only enhance her ability to create stories that powerfully inform and influence the international dialogues on the topics of LGBT and women’s rights. Ruth contends, “A good storyteller must create and inhabit characters with varied experiences and beliefs; social justice is similarly tied to empathy and respect for everyone, despite differences.” The lessons learned in these differences during her time abroad are what will be translated in Ruth’s films

Kathryn Lyle

Home University: Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Major: Women’s Studies and Psychology ’17
Studying In: Jaipur, India

Documenting the voice of women will be the focus Kathryn Lyle’s semester abroad. She will undertake fieldwork, researching Indian women’s experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. Understanding the intersections of economic class, household politics, the current political climate regarding reproductive rights, and religion with these experiences will inform Kathryn’s cross cultural ideology of feminism. “After graduation, I plan to become a certified nurse-midwife and work for a feminist health clinic that empowers women to have control over their own bodies and places maternal decision-making back into the hands of laboring mothers instead of medical institutions.” Kathryn is committed to empowering and advancing women at home and abroad.

Amanda Ramsing-Lund

Home University: University of Vermont
Major: Environmental Studies ’17
Studying In: Maun, Botswana

For Amanda Ramsing-Lund, studying ecological health and conservation with the Round River Conservation Studies organization is a dream study abroad program, a hands-on experiential learning and research opportunity without duplicability on her campus. She is certain that the program will further shape and clarify the direction of her interdisciplinary professional future. She is particularly keen to gain a new perspective on environmental issues and conservation approaches, based on the influence of the native cultural, an instrumental component in any international conservation work. “At this point in my personal and academic career, studying conservation science abroad promises to be the culmination of all that I have learned about myself and the studies closest to my heart,” says Amanda.

Past Scholarship Recipients and Scholar Stories

Catherine Calloway

Home University: University of Georgia
Major: Cognitive Science & Biology (’17)
Studied In: Zurich, Switzerland

Study Abroad

Catherine’s study abroad experience as a research intern in Zurich, Switzerland originated in Atlanta at the Shepherd Center, a spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation center. While at the center, she completed a study on a robotic neurorehabilitation device produced by Swiss company Hocoma. This device, ArmeoSpring, reduces the force of gravity allowing the user (a spinal cord injury patient) to freely move and greatly improves the moral of patients. Her time abroad not only continued expanded her horizons in the field of neuro-rehabilitation robotics, but she also says it exposed her to the vast differences among worldwide healthcare systems.

“Zurich, Switzerland is the second most expensive city in the world, calculated according to living expenses. Without this scholarship, studying abroad on a student budget would be impossible.”

Changemaker Update

Catherine says, “Ultimately, my goal as an intern and one day as a neurosurgeon is simple: I want to give people like Nigel” – the first patient she met on her first day of observation at the Shepherd Center – “the best chance to reach out and shake a hand.”

While making strides to her one-day status of physician, Catherine is simultaneously working to give coeds their best chance. She has dedicated herself to improving the on-campus climate regarding sexual assault. Through a non-partisan student-run think tank, she and others are addressing the issue through policy research. She says her “hope is to leave the campus environment where both people understand consent and its legal ramifications and victims feel comfortable enough with the university proceedings and policies to report” assaults.

Wesnide Edouard

Home University: University of Florida
Major: Accounting (’16)
Studied In: Madrid, Spain

Study Abroad

A Haitian born immigrant to the U.S., Wesnide says that all things America filled her early childhood dreams. The U.S. was seen as “the threshold to wealth and prosperity,” she says. Upon moving to the U.S., she dreamed new dreams, bigger dreams. She dreamed of studying abroad in Spain. Studying and living in Spain allowed her to see the value in other cultures and other ways of living, specifically appreciating cultures beyond the lore of the U.S. on which she grew up. Although similar in prosperity, says Wesnide, Spain provided an example of Western prosperity without the emphasis on wealth accumulation.

“This scholarship has enabled me to dream beyond my cultural understanding of America and to really see the value in other cultures and other ways of living.”

Changemaker Update

“As a Haitian American, growing up in immigrant neighborhoods where single parent families are working two jobs to provide not only for their immediate families but also for family members in Haiti, it’s clear that the path for success may be blurry for the youth in the Haitian American community.” Blending her life experience and accounting education, Wesnide feels compelled to be a teacher to those in her community, not just a ‘good example.’ “I aim to have workshops” Wesnide reports, “and spread the knowledge of money management so that single parent families won’t have to work two jobs to provide for their families.”

Ellie Freeman

Home University: Texas A&M University
Major: Spanish & International Studies (’16)
Studied In: Cuernavaca, Mexico

Study Abroad

Study abroad is a requirement of Ellie’s major, but studying in Mexico offered her the opportunity she most craved while also developing her foreign language skills: cultural immersion and meeting uniquely different people. Ellie says, “As our world becomes more globalized and connected, I believe it is very important to make our greatest effort to seek, to understand and to relate to people that may seem very different than us.”

Changemaker Update

Ellie is also working on becoming fluent in Arabic. Using her language skills, she hopes to someday work on international issues critical to national security. Until that day, Ellie is pursuing a far more personal issue. She is providing the means for an orphaned Rwanda boy to receive health care and education. It is this effort — individually connecting with those so uniquely different from us — that may very well be the key to long-term national security.

Alexis Glenn

Home University: University of Central Florida
Major: Elementary Education (’16)
Studied In: Gaborone, Botswana

Study Abroad

Alexis knew Botswana was an uncommon destination for study abroad – and she admits culture shock was very real for her – but the choice was quite deliberate. While in Botswana, she learned a lot about remote schools and directly witnessed the effects of limited to no resources, heightening the everyday challenges in such a classroom. Working as a classroom aid, her specific program allowed her to view education, particularly the topics of access and equity through a new lens — one not to be replicated elsewhere. Alexis reports the blessing of the scholarship translated as a blessing for these rural students. “Because I was blessed with this scholarship I was able to make a difference in the lives of these students.”

Changemaker Update

Alexis shares that she is considering returning to Botswana once she has completed her own education. Regardless of the destination, however, she is seeking to teach the under served and to empower these students to reach their full potential. And someday too she desires to create a scholarship.

Samra Cordic

Home University: Webster University
Major: Legal Studies (’15)
Studied In: Leiden, The Netherlands

Study Abroad

The choice to study abroad seemed an impossibility for Samra. Responsible for paying her own way through college, even a small additional expense seemed insurmountable. She further received little encouragement from her family. She was advised that is was neither proper nor respectable for a young unmarried Bosnian woman to leave her family and study abroad. This created a resolve in Samra. “I would like to prove that women are just as capable as men and that nothing, especially gender roles, should ever hold you back from pursuing your dreams and bettering yourself.”

Changemaker Update

Samra has a passion for women’s rights, minority rights and equality in human rights throughout the world. Pursuit of endeavors which furthers these passions worldwide is a goal for Samra. From humble beginnings in a Bosnian village to the wonderful and numerous opportunities presented to her since immigrating to the U.S., keep her motivated. She hopes to create opportunities for children of developing nations to become better educated. “Not only would this provide children with a chance to make something of themselves, but I believe it would aid in the development of their respective nations,” says Samra. “Every child deserves an opportunity. I have been blessed with many, and I would love to be able to pay it forward.”

Amelia Davis

Home University: University of Denver
Major: Biology & English (’14)
Studied In: Valparaiso, Chile

Study Abroad

Amelia undertook a service-learning internship with Consultorio Baron in Valparaíso, a public clinic which provides many free services for low-income Chileans. The experience fulfilled two goals she had set for herself: one to improve her Spanish fluency and two, do so by directly engaging with the community in a service learning/internship setting.

Of her time abroad, Amelia says, “Life often presents us with amazing opportunities, and I am so thankful to the Foundation for Global Scholars for giving me one such opportunity in studying abroad. My experience in Chile gave me so much more than I expected. I was able to speak Spanish constantly, make connections with wonderful and warm people, explore the stunning landscapes of the country, and learn more about healthcare in a different country.”

Changemaker Update

Amelia is now a member of the AmeriCorps Community HealthCorps, serving with Salud Family Health Centers in northern Colorado. Daily, she interacts with patients. These daily interactions have taught Amelia a great lesson. “We can have an impact in each individual’s life, whether that impact lies in assistance in navigating insurance and the healthcare system, a referral to a behavioral health specialist, or simple conversations for support and morale.”

Of her experience with AmeriCorps, Amelia reflects, “I’m finding that all communities need education, awareness, conversations, and even support in many facets of life, not just healthcare.”

Zola Glassman

Home University: Hampshire College
Major: Media Business and Production (Film) (’15)
Studied In: Seville, Spain

Study Abroad

Zola’s study abroad experience demanded that she engage with her new community. Her film program in Seville – hosted classes at a media lab with local film professors – immersed her in the Spanish culture and strengthened her filmmaking skills. The outcome of this immersion and developed skills was a documentary that explored a distinct aspect of Sevillan culture — the night life. In particular, Zola defined “the perception of youth in the context of ‘la fiesta (the party)’ from a variety of different perspectives.” In the process of creating the documentary, she conducted a series of interviews with Spanish locals, from a DJ and bar tender at a discoteca, to taxi drivers and Spanish youth on the street. She says the process led her outside of her comfort zone and prompted her to “interact with the [Spanish] culture through a different lens.”

What’s Next

Having broadened her understanding of the scope of the Spanish media, language, and community, Zola says she was “excited to return to the States with a cross cultural understanding of my focus and new found sense of independence.” She screened her documentary at a California film festival.

“Since returning from my semester abroad, where I immersed myself in a different culture and cultivated strong ties to a faraway place, I have been experiencing life the States through a new and inherently worldlier pair of eyes. My exposure to different customs and ways of life has manifested in a newfound sense of possibility and openness to trying new things, new paths, new thoughts.”

“By fully immersing myself and exploring a different culture through the creation of a film, my hope is to ultimately use my experience and the power of the media as a way to break down global divides,” says Zola.

Dana Hadra

Home University: Boston College
Major: Political Science & Islamic Civilizations and Societies (’15)
Studied In: Amman, Jordan

Study Abroad

Throughout her collegiate career, Dana has grown increasingly passionate about language, politics, and government, particularly in one of the most politically complex regions in the world, the Middle East. Living in Amman, Jordan for a semester, would certainly test and stretch these passions. Dana wished to achieve two specific goals for her time in the Middle East: 1) drastically improve her Arabic, and 2) become involved in her community, meeting as many people as possible, to gain a better understanding of that area of the world. She accomplished both, through her daily classes and everyday encounters with people, who, as Dana explains “weren’t shy in sharing their opinions about politics, culture, religion, you name it.”

Dana says, “The Middle East is such a fascinating place, and it was amazing to be right in the heart of it all!”

Changemaker Update

Upon her return from Jordan, Dana interned for a think tank in Washington, DC where she analyzed military and political developments in Syria. Having met a number of Syrian refugees while in Jordan, the internship experience gave her yet another invaluable Middle Eastern perspective.

Now in her final year of study, Dana is writing her senior thesis. She is looking at the ideological underpinnings of ISIS, but will also be trying to understand the group within the context of political instability in Syria and Iraq. Dana admits, “I definitely have my work cut out for me, but it should be an interesting project.”

Following graduation, Dana hopes to “promote a deeper level of understanding between the Middle East and the western world, whether through government, humanitarian, or international development work.”

Socorro Lopez

Home University: George Washington University
Major: Environmental Studies (’15)
Studied In: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Study Abroad

Socorro reports that her few months in Africa were “a catalyst for unparalleled personal growth.” After four months, Socorro came to better understand a culture, religion and people that initially seemed very foreign to her. “Through the relationships that I was able to establish during my time abroad, I ultimately found a home in East Africa.” “My time in Tanzania was a catalyst for unparalleled personal growth, an experience that was largely made possible by the support that I received from the Foundation for Global Scholars,” says Socorro.

Changemaker Update

Socorro grew up in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in this Western Hemisphere. Today, there are few opportunities for business owners and future leaders in Honduras. “When I have the resources, I would like to find a way to empower young Hondurans.” To get there, Socorro is actively developing her own leadership capacity. This past summer, Socorro participated in a ‘Collegiate Leaders’ internship with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.

Johanna O’Day

Home University: Boston College
Major: Biochemistry (’15)
Studied In: Galápagos, Ecuador

Study Abroad

Johanna’s study abroad experience in the Galápagos Islands “wholly and awesomely transformed” her, but she reasoned that this transformation is worthless if not used to spur positive change. The five marine biology courses Johanna took in Ecuador altered the way she felt about the ocean, which has been so prominent in many of her childhood memories. Her eyes were opened when learning of the existence of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch.’ Her heart broke but a passion to initiate change also ignited in Johanna.

Changemaker Update

Johanna’s passion is now teaching others about the importance of sustainable environmental practices — such as decreasing waste — and about the significance of small changes. Partnering with the YMCA, Johanna is creating a classroom and field-based program to encourage and empower kids to make achievable change in their local communities. She believes kids will delight in these simple acts and gain a greater appreciation for what they’ve been given.

Parth Patel

Home University: University of Pittsburgh
Major: Neuroscience (’14)
Studied In: Gold Coast, Australia

Study Abroad

Parth studied in Australia to learn more about how its healthcare system is working towards reducing health inequities between European and Indigenous Australians. He selected courses focused on this topic, and interacted with classmates from both cultures. Parth also volunteered extensively with the Indigenous Awareness Society and the Make a Difference Global Health Group to better understand the injustices that indigenous people face.

Changemaker Update

Parth’s volunteer experiences while both home and abroad confirmed his desire to become a physician. This August, he began medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. He says, “I want to use my future skills in medicine to work alongside other healthcare providers and policy organizations to remove barriers to healthcare access and to ultimately serve the global community.” Parth is a 2014 Tylenol® Future Care Scholarship recipient. Chosen recipients “strike the admirable balance of academic excellence, leadership, and community involvement” and are dedicating “their careers to caring for other people”.

Mia Rodriguez

Home University: Chapman University
Major: Business Administration (’15)
Studied In: Newcastle, Australia

Study Abroad

Combining her love for the complex world of business and the simple beauty of the natural world, Mia chose to study both marketing and environmental science at the University of Newcastle in Australia. She equally devoted her study abroad experience to the value found outside of the classroom. Specifically, Mia became involved in the community which hosted her. Mia volunteered with the group Special Needs Unlimited, which serves families with children afflicted with rare medical conditions. She says she fell in love with the non-profit because it reminded her of the volunteer work she’d previously done with Ronald McDonald House.

Mia also participated in and completed a program called iLead. Throughout the semester she had access to skill building workshops and a variety of guest speakers. Two of her favorite lectures were given by young entrepreneurs. One runs a trash clean up initiative in Australia. The other founded a nonprofit that helps impoverished women in India sell handmade jewelry. The money earned from jewelry sales pays for village children to attend school. “I really enjoyed this program and feel that it enriched my study abroad experience beyond the classroom. ”

Changemaker Update

Once she’s completed her degree, Mia plans to again combine her passions — business, the environment, and non-profit work – to become an entrepreneur of an echo-friendly non-profit of her own, perhaps one quite similar to her current endeavor at Chapman: Re-Soap. Re-Soap both helps others and saves the environment. The mission of this four-student run company is to recycle wasted soap bars from the hospitality industry and then use them to reduce hygienic illnesses in impoverished populations. Re-Soap has filed for Articles of Incorporation in the State of California and has begun to collect, sanitize, and redistribute its first round of soap bars.

Of her study abroad experience, she says, “Studying in Australia gave me the unique opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone, a skill that is essential for all entrepreneurs.”

Taylor Shannon

Home University: Boston College
Major: Nursing (’15)
Studied In: Cape Town, South Africa

Study Abroad

Taylor chose to study in South Africa because of the diversity the country offers. “As diversity in the United States continues to increase, I believe it is important for nursing students to have as much exposure as possible to different populations,” says Taylor. She thought immersing herself in the Cape Town community would allow her to become a better nurse, teaching her to be more culturally competent and sensitive to the differing needs of her future patients.

Changemaker Update

Taylor will work as a nursing intern in Arusha, Tanzania for six weeks this summer. Of her upcoming experience, she notes, “I hope to observe the best practice standards of a government run hospital in Tanzania and compare these practices to those I’ve observed in South Africa and my clinical experience in the United States. Not only do I believe this experience will give me the privilege of helping those in a country with limited medical professionals, but I believe this will further guide me along my hopes to one day work on improving global healthcare policies based on ethnographic beliefs and practices.”

Taylor has always had the desire to help others, which led her to pursue a career in nursing. Following graduation, she hopes to work in an intensive care unit. Specifically, she aspires to help others when they are in their most vulnerable states. “Everyone at some point in their life will need a nurse, and I want to be a part of the caring presence that makes up a hospital and the community that encompasses it.”

Matthew Stoltz

Home University: University of Wisconsin, Madison
Major: Community and Nonprofit Leadership (’15)
Studied In: Nairobi, Kenya

Study Abroad

“By enabling me to experience Kenya in its entirety, the scholarship permitted me to better grasp the disparities of the world around us,” says Matthew. A combination of community engagement courses and an internship placed Matthew with urban populations and in countryside communities alike. While offering skill development to these groups, Matthew found he also experienced unprecedented growth.

Changemaker Update

Matthew learned a great deal about creating change throughout his time abroad. From the experience, he says, “There is no doubt in my mind, that my life is meant to help others.”

Matthew is planning a 11,000+ mile bicycle trek across the U.S., stopping at all 30 MLB stadiums. The 2015 ‘Biking for Ballparks’ initiative will raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with volunteer mentors. Matt’s goal is to raise $50,000 for the organization. He will begin his journey in Seattle at Safeco Field, on opening day, April 6, 2015. Central Wisconsin’s local ABC affiliate WAOW recently interviewed Matthew and featured his story on the local news.

To learn more about ‘Biking for Ballparks,’ donate, host, and/or follow Matthew on his journey, visit

“I firmly believe my life is an opportunity to help others, and I am the one who must capitalize on it.”

Helen Beshaar

Home University: University of Portland
Major: Nursing (’16)
Studied In: Salzburg, Austria

Study Abroad

Studying abroad in Austria marked Helen’s first time outside the U.S. An international destination exposed her to languages and cultures, but it was her encounters with people and an insight into their nature that created her fondest memories. These included a kind lady on the train giving out travel tips, an old man working at the pastry stand bemused by her new found delight of a warm oliebolen, and Irish guys who presumed Peyton Manning must be her relation because she was a Coloradan.

Helen says her scholarship gave her a bit of a ‘cushion’ and peace of mind. “I also want to thank you for how easy and friendly all of my interactions with FGS have been. I’ve really appreciated the personality I encountered behind the organization.”

Changemaker Update

Connecting with people, making a difference, and her desire to gain more lessons from abroad has directed Helen’s path since her return Stateside. This past summer she chose to get a jump start on her major, taking nursing classes prior to the official start of her program. She also arranged meetings with military recruiters to discuss options for military nurses. Of this previously unconsidered prospect, Helen says, “It’s all new, and a little intimidating, but I’m super excited to see where it all takes me!”

Phillip Stringer

Home University: Tuskegee University
Major: Chemical Engineering (’15)
Studied In: San Jose, Costa Rica

Study Abroad

When choosing Costa Rica as his study abroad destination, Phillip was looking forward to improving his Spanish language skills and was particularly keen to take the science classes offered in San Jose. Phillip reports that his Spanish is indeed much improved and that he “made As” in his science classes, but what he found especially memorable and rewarding was time spent volunteering at a sea turtle conservatory, taking part in patrols to stop poaching.

“I want to thank FGS for its support. The experience was life changing and it filled me with an energy to succeed like never before,” says Phillip of the experience.

Changemaker Update

Phillip is using techniques learned in those science classes to develop alternative energy sources for his campus and the local community. Specifically, Phillip and a fellow student are working towards the production of methane energy from the residual, organic waste of blueberry farms. It is hoped that the energy produced will be used by local school cafeterias, including the cafeteria on the Tuskegee campus. Funding for the project came from the Ford Motor Company, a $10,000 grant. Phillip and his partner were 1 of four nationwide collegiate teams awarded a grant from Ford. Stringer is also encouraging the entrepreneurial ambitions of his peers, helping other Tuskegee students develop their own projects for submission to the Ford Motor Company.

Read more about Phillip’s second place win in the first Ford HBCU Community Challenge.

Phillip is now working in the Garifuna community in Honduras, sharing the methane energy project with the locals. This fellowship is supported by the U.S. Department of State and UNESCO. He says the community “really looks to America as an example and [UNESCO] does important work for the community.”

Kenya Wright

Home University: Tuskegee University
Major: Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations: Energy and the Environment (’15)
Studied In: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Rabat, Morocco; and Cochabamba, Bolivia

Study Abroad

A study abroad program across three different continents wasn’t what Kenya necessarily imagined when she considered studying abroad, but the unique program — which examined the interconnections between the economics, politics, geography, and the science of climate change and its effects on human society — was too ideal of fit not to jump on it. She says she particularly was drawn to the program’s experiential approach to the topics. It made the link between her studies and her extracurricular activities tangible. Equally tangible were the vivid contrasts of the unique encounters during the 15-week journey around the globe, from the soft-spoken kindness and hospitality of her Vietnamese host family and the peaceful, almost other world experience of the Malaleuca forests, to the strikingly rich color palettes and foods of Morocco.

Changemaker Update

Kenya spent a portion of the 2014 summer in the Marshall Islands assisting a team of surgeons, while simultaneously beginning to develop an environmental conservation plan for these communities. The plan includes the areas of food, water and waste. She reports that the people in these communities are eager but there is a appreciable education deficit. Kenya believes that health care and sustainable environmental practices go hand-in-hand, both significant contributors to people’s quality of life.

Kenya will spend June 11 – August 24, 2015 biking 4,072 miles from New Haven, CT to Half Moon Bay, CA. The cross-country bike ride with Bike & Build will spread awareness of and raise money for affordable housing efforts across American communities. During the 75-day trek, Kenya and the other 30 cyclists will participate in affordable housing construction projects alongside organizations like Habitat for Humanity. She will be the first Black woman to bike this route with Bike and Build.

Michael Wright

Home University: University of Washington, Bothell
Major: Law, Economics, and Public Policy (’14)
Studied In: Vladivostok, Russia

Study Abroad

Michael chose to study in Vladivostok because he was born in Vladivostok. When he was two years old, he was adopted by “two of the best parents in the world. They’ve taught me a lot, but they could never teach me my language, Russian.” By returning to Russia as a college student, Michael found a way to immerse himself in his native language and culture, and in fact, was also able to visit the orphanage that he lived in for his first two years. During his visits he played with the children now housed at the orphanage and was ready to bring a number of them home. . . if only he could. He too met two women who were his original caretakers so many years ago.

Changemaker Update

Prior to landing Stateside, Michael’s language acquisition was put to the test. On one of his return flights — from Seoul, South Korea to Seattle, Washington — Michael provided language translation for an in-flight medical emergency. The experience is one that was both “overwhelming and cool,” one of many that he experienced over the last year. The medical emergency proved to be a non-life-threatening peanut allergy, but his role in lending support to the flight crew, got Michael thinking about different ways he might both launch his career and help others using his Russian language skills. Currently, he is reviewing the process for sitting the TORFL (Test of Russian as a Foreign Language).

Jennifer North

Home University: University of Miami
Major: Latin American Studies & Psychology (’15)
Studied In: Santiago, Chile

Study Abroad

Jennifer began her time abroad in a rural Quechua-speaking village in central Bolivia. Immersed in the village, she volunteered to teach English and literacy classes while studying the language and indigenous culture herself. In contrast to the physical remoteness of this this initial experience, she undertook her formal study abroad program in urban Santiago. Jennifer describes her experience of studying at Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile as “academically demanding but intellectually thrilling.” Taking her classes in Spanish, she sharpened her academic Spanish, her informal communication, and her knowledge of Chilean culture. Jennifer was most engaged with her social science classes. She noted that examining issues central to society from an entirely different view – from a foreign perspective – was a critical learning experience and will be valuable lifelong skill for her intra and intercultural encounters.

Changemaker Update

Prompted by several experiences in Latin America – often among displaced people of these countries – and her love of languages, Jennifer began volunteering at Catholic Charities Legal Services when she returned from Chile. She has purposefully combined her language skills and her understanding of Latin American cultures to assist the displaced in her own community. Specifically, Jennifer is a Spanish-English interpreter on asylum cases for the nonprofit law firm.

Jennifer says, “I have observed the complexity of the forces that make people flee from their home countries and embark on a dangerous and uncertain journey to the United States. I want to give a voice and comprehension to those who have already suffered enough.”

Jennifer is also a contracted interpreter for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In 2015, she will earn her bachelor’s degree, as well as, a master’s in Latin American Studies.

Caroline Storm

Home University: Oregon State University
Major: Public Health (’14)
Studied In: Kambama, Sierra Leone

Study Abroad

Caroline, while a graduate student at Oregon State, conducted field research in remote villages of Sierra Leone. Her 2013 research focused on maternal health in a remote village of the West African country. She aimed to create a cultural model that best described the determinants of health, specifically from the locals’ perspectives, as well as, to examine the delivery systems already in place and how these might be bettered through a cultural perspective. Caroline also undertook an internship while in country. This included training and teaching healthy practices to locals, that of course, was culturally appropriate. Teaching methods included singing, dancing, and role playing, for example. These means best supported the nonliterate village population and facilitated the creation of a standard community education presentation on breastfeeding.

Changemaker Update

A number of themes emerged from Caroline’s research. Among them was villagers’ understanding of illness and wellness. This understanding is deeply rooted in “traditional beliefs that relate to their environment, spiritual practices, and a sense of community,” and these beliefs frequently conflict with government initiatives and health protocols. The results of Caroline’s research led to the formation of a community health collective. The collective will encourage government staff, local healers and families to synchronously provide “treatment, education, training, and opportunities for research,” says Caroline.

The establishment of the collective was very timely. The empowerment of the collective became critical during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. “I attribute the successful recovery of Jawei to local level collaboration and leadership that used local resources and systems of governance to establish by-laws and protocols for prevention, treatment, and recovery. The strength of their empowered self-reliance literally saved their lives.”

Back at home, Caroline has partnered with the University of Southern Oregon’s Nursing Students Without Borders to raise funds to assist families affected by the viral outbreak.

Caroline completed her Master of Public Health in June 2014, and will soon receive a second masters in applied anthropology. She says she is considering continuing her education through pursuit of a PhD in Women’s Studies, “which seems like a logical next step in my work in maternal-child health.” This summer, Caroline will participate in the International Development Design Summit in Chennai, India.

“What a journey this has all been! I am eternally grateful for the support I have that makes it possible,” says Caroline. “The ongoing contact and support from FGS continues to motivate me. Someday I hope to serve in some capacity with FGS so that I might pay it forward for other students.”

Melli Swanson

Home University: University of Georgia
Major: International Affairs (’16)
Studied In: Noosa, Australia

Study Abroad

Adopted from China as a baby, Meili first returned to China when she was 8 years old. At that young age, she was immediately wide-eyed and receptive to learning about and experiencing different cultures. Fast-forward 11 years, the enthusiasm still remained. Meili spent the summer of 2013 blending her excitement for cultures with her then minors, anthropology and ecology, in Noosa, Australia, a successful sustainable community. Of the program, she says, “The courses Sustaining Human Societies & the Natural Environment and Field Animal Behavior fit my academic program perfectly.” The program bettered her understanding of the connections among economy, society, politics, and the environment.

Changemaker Update

Meili is a scholar of the Roosevelt Institute and currently the Center Director for Defense and Diplomacy in the student-run think tank. This summer she will intern with the National Defense Industrial Association in Arlington, VA. In 2016, Meili expects to complete both a bachelor degree in International Affairs and a master’s in International Policy. Upon her graduation, her goal is to become a foreign policy analyst with a think tank, specifically using her research skills, international affairs & policy education and her acute understanding about cultures to identify existing problems and develop culturally aware policy solutions.

Meili says that her “motivation to care for other people and the world we live in regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, fundamental beliefs, stems from the basic human condition and the shared experience it entails.”

Xavier Griffiths

Home University: Fordham University
Major: English & Communications (Film) (’14)
Studied In: Tokyo, Japan

Study Abroad

Xavier chose to study in Japan for several reasons. “Culturally I have always been interested in Japanese literature (文学), cinema, food (料理), and (to a far lesser extent than most, I’m sure) anime (アニメ) and manga (漫画),” says Xavier. Apart from these interests, he was also committed to learning the language. He willingly admits that the daily language classes were his biggest challenge. It was “a true test of commitment, intellect, and adaptability.” Despite his daily struggle to speak and understand the language, he reports that Tokyo was a very liberating city in which to live. “If you do not mind getting lost, which is inevitable as the streets have no names, you will often find yourself in places more interesting than your intended destination.”

Changemaker Update

Now a graduate with an English degree, the student has become the teacher. Xavier received a position with the well-respected JET program (Japanese Exchange and Teaching). In August, he returned to Tokyo for a 1-2 year commitment, assisting in English language classrooms at a Japanese high school. JET has recently added an additional 100 teaching positions in Tokyo this year. This is in response to the city’s selection as host of the 2020 summer Olympic games.

Of his STA Travel Scholarship, Xavier says, “It enabled me to make the most of my trip last year and plan ahead for a future trip like this one.”

Rex Kong

Home University: Purdue University
Major: Electrical Engineering (’15)
Studied in: Sydney, Australia

Study Abroad

When considering his study abroad options, Rex sought a program that would offer energy & nanotechnology studies within the electrical engineering field. The University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia fit the bill. Rex quickly adapted to the Australian education style, suggesting that although it “was not any less difficult,” the greater focus on studying and fewer weekly assignments was a “nice change of pace” from the style of curriculum delivery at Purdue University. Appreciating the difference in curriculum delivery was just one lesson learned. Rex also learned he had some untapped self-confidence.

Changemaker Update

Inspired by the boost in confidence from studying abroad, Rex has taken the lead on starting a new student group on his home campus. This new organization is a leadership/mentor group that will work to positively impact first year students. The idea for the club stemmed from the discontinuation of a leadership class. Rex explains his sense of obligation, “I wanted to do my best to try to keep it going, because it was a part of my inspiration to go study abroad. There was just a lot of motivation in the original Presidential Leadership Class that made the class want to do more with their time here at Purdue.”

The executive board of officers has now been formed and the constitutional framework completed. The club launched on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus the fall of 2014.

Rex has been selected to be an Orr Fellow. He will commence his fellowship upon graduation in the spring. Indiana’s Orr Fellows “gain executive-level mentorship at their Host Companies, build an impressive professional network through monthly Business Leader Meetings, and join an invaluable peer network with other talented recent grads.” ( Rex will work with T2 Systems. “Personally, I see the fellowship as a great stepping stone for me to get more experience in the entrepreneurial arena!” says Rex.

Emily Marlow

Home University: Central Michigan University
Major: Biomedical Science (’15)
Studied In: Angers, France

Study Abroad

The focus of Emily’s study abroad experience was improving her language skills and completing the requirements toward her French minor. This is not atypical for students studying in non-English speaking destinations, but her reasons run deeper. As a biomedical student, Emily aspires to become a physician and ultimately serve with Doctors Without Borders, treating those with widely neglected tropical diseases.

Studying in France earned her those needed credits for her minor but more importantly, Emily reports that the study abroad experience exposed her to different people and cultures, broadening her understanding of the world, which will serve her well as a doctor practicing in Africa.

Changemaker Update

As this year’s Vice President of Central Michigan’s chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), Emily has become an activist for access to health care. UAEM is an international non-profit advocating for complete global access to medicines and healthcare. The CMU chapter’s biggest initiative has been raising awareness of universities’ roles in this drug gap. While many medical discoveries occur at universities, patenting and licensing is undertaken by large pharmaceutical companies, which manufacture the drugs and charge outrageous prices until the patent lapses. Chapters of UAEM actively petition their universities to change policies, making the education institutions a partner in access to the breakthrough drugs rather than a blockade to them. In addition to the awareness campaign, the CMU chapter has also drafted and submitted its own policy change document to the Central Michigan University president for signing.

Emily says, “UAEM has empowered me to make a difference NOW, not just after I’ve become a doctor a long way down the road. With that realization I feel that I not only have the ability, but the responsibility to make that difference. This is what drives me, this is what motivates me.”

Toler Wolfe

Home University: University of Wisconsin
Major: Art (’14)
Studied In: Aix-en-Provence, France

Study Abroad

Upon arriving in Aix-en-Provence Toler was immediately smitten with the city. It’s manageably small, very clean, home to dozens of fountains (the city’s known for its numerous water features), and its narrow, winding streets seem to have resisted the passage of time. Furthermore, to commemorate the Marseille-Provence region of France being chosen as the 2013 European Cultural Capital, Aix was peppered with outdoor artwork and performances. Most notably Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama had wrapped the huge plane trees that line the city’s main street, the Cours Mirabeau, with red and white polka dot fabric, heightening the beauty of downtown Aix. Of his experience in France, Toler notes, “I feel humility. Not at all in a negative sense, but rather in that I am now acutely aware of how much there is to learn and experience and how little of it I have learned and experienced. This is the most valuable thing I gained in France.”

Changemaker Update

Toler says, he feels “profoundly more connected to other people and conscious of the intellectual value of new social interactions. I discovered that although cultural differences exist, in the end we are all fundamentally human. Study abroad also provided Toler clarity of purpose. Toler has made plans to move to Chicago and pursue stand up and improv comedy. “It has always been an interest of mine, and upon returning from France I realized it’s what I truly want to do,” remarks Toler. The gift of laughter is for everyone.

Ela Milijkovic

Home University: College of Idaho
Major: Spanish (’13)
Studied In: San Sebastián, Spain

Study Abroad

At the age of 5, Ela was both a refugee of the former Yugoslavia and an American kindergartner. Her memories of the time are still very vivid. She remarks, “I felt alienated because I could not communicate with any of my classmates. I quickly discovered the power of learning languages because I could use words to share my feelings, to answer a question, and to make friends.” This discovery prompted her to declare Spanish as a major more than a decade later and her choice of an intensive Spanish language study abroad program too. Ela specifically selected San Sebastián – just 12 miles from the French border – so she could not only perfect her Spanish (speaking with an authentic Castilian accent) but also practice her French, yet another addition to her repertoire of languages. Apart from language immersion, Ela also had the benefit of a family reunion while on the European continent, visiting family in Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia.

Changemaker Update

Ela is now at the University of Houston pursuing a PhD in Latin American History, focusing on food and agricultural history. She is seeking to provide answers to critical questions: Currently, the focus on profitability and quantity over health concerns and quality consumes the goal of food production companies that compete in this industry around the world; but when and why did this occur? When did it become globally accepted to produce and consume harmful, incompatible chemicals to inject into foods for greater profit at the sacrifice of human life over time?

Ela aims to be a voice of change, for reverting back to traditional farming practices, food safety, and health awareness. She plans to improve public awareness to reduce the plague of chronic disease caused by GMO crops and unsafe food production and manufacturing in the United States.

Every summer, Ela grows a garden with the goal of teaching those within her community who would like to learn about safe farming and the ease of growing local crops. She also works with her local food bank and donates local crops to provide food baskets for homeless shelters across the city.

Sarah Varughese

Home University: University of Miami
Major: International Studies and Business (’13)
Studied In: Sydney, Australia

Study Abroad

Studying abroad validated for Sarah her choice in majors, provoked her to postpone graduate school (a Master of Public Administration at either Columbia or George Washington) and seek meaningful work following graduation. While studying in Sydney, Sarah lived with students and connected with young professionals involved in the social justice cause, specifically advocacy for Sydney’s homeless, new immigrants and the Aboriginal populations. She was inspired by these connections and then her own involvement while living in Sydney.

Changemaker Update

Sarah now works as an operations manager at the Miami Music Project, combining three of her passions: social justice, music, and travel. The Miami Music Project works with poor communities, placing classical music training within the communities. In March 2014, the Miami Music Project debuted a quintet at a music festival in France. “Studying abroad ignited a confidence in me, a confidence that I can do anything and I can do it by myself. I can do this [travel] in a job.” After studying in Australia on her own, Sarah no longer sees being young and being on her own as a barrier to achievement but an asset. Since studying abroad Sarah has also traveled to Cuba to conduct a children’s camp in the slums of Havana.

Anna Celander

Home University: Bradley University
Major: Fine Arts & Psychology (’12)
Studied In: Copenhagen, Denmark

Study Abroad

Anna Celander was an STA Travel Scholar. Her education abroad was in Denmark at The Danish Institute for Study Abroad, where she studied therapeutic approaches practiced in various Danish institutions. It was in Denmark that she was “struck by their innovative integration of art into the therapeutic process” and found a vision for her professional future. Upon her return to the U.S., Anna formalized a plan to use art therapy with cancer patients and implemented her ideas in a summer internship in Chicago. “The support I received through the STA Travel scholarship allowed me to enjoy being with my Danish host family and to embrace my unique cultural experience, without constant worries about money at the back of my mind.”

Changemaker Update

Anna graduated summa cum laude from Bradley and now works as an artist and art instructor in Chicago and continues to work with cancer patients. She has also recently completed her master’s program, an MA in Art Therapy at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Anna’s long-term career goal is to work with a team of hospital clinicians, helping adults coping with cancer.

In March 2014, Anna was reunited with her host sister from Denmark. Anna was so very excited to “finally welcome her into this bustling city with just as much enthusiasm, comfort and inclusiveness the Holm-Hemmingsons offered me.”

Peighton Huse

Home University: University of North Texas
Major: International Studies (’12)
Studied In: Amman, Jordan

Study Abroad

Peighton Huse was an International Studies major at the University of North Texas. With a goal to be fluent in Arabic, she spent a semester in Jordan in an Arabic Intensive program and lived with a host family who spoke only Arabic at home. The effect of her experience was that she dramatically improved her Arabic and can now speak about the Middle East from firsthand experience. Having tangible examples of life in the Middle East has added to her overall understanding of that complex culture.

She believes her study abroad experience gives her an edge and opens new possibilities for her career. An example how Peighton’s Middle East experience is having an impact on her everyday life in a smaller town in Texas is through her work at Texas Roadhouse, a steakhouse with a chain in several states. They are opening restaurants in the Middle East, including Dubai, and Peighton was enlisted to help them draft a training manual for Americans training Arabic employees. She also worked with two Egyptian managers who are in Texas for training.

Changemaker Update

Peighton is near completion of a Master’s in Comparative and Regional Studies at American University. Her focus is on the Middle East. She is also employed by Chemonics International, within the Middle East division. Chemonics is an international development firm that implements USAID projects. She is presently working on the organization’s Iraq Government Strengthening project. Peighton shares that it has been incredibly rewarding to work on such an exciting and timely project. “The efforts are focused on strengthening Iraq and the Iraqi local governments vis-a-vis ISIS. This USAID-funded project is doing amazing work in capacity development and decentralization.”

Chelsea Javier

Home University: University of San Francisco
Major: Art (’13)
Studied In: Florence, Italy

Study Abroad

Chelsea is student at the University of San Francisco who received a scholarship for her international education program in Florence, Italy. As an art major, the opportunity to study in one of the world’s great art centers helped define her artistic direction. She was inspired by what she learned and saw and realized that creativity can and should be an essential part of her career path, whatever turns that may take.

She used her scholarship to support her everyday expenses in Italy like groceries, cooking, and for travel to her ancestral home in Sicily.

Changemaker Update

Upon returning to the U.S., Chelsea’s work was accepted to a prestigious art show in Los Angeles. Chelsea previously worked as drawing and painting instructor in the Bay Area. She now is an instructor of comic book illustration at Nusku Arts in San Francisco. Her own work has been shown in art shows around the state.

Natalie Sober

Home University: University of Colorado
Major: Spanish and Elementary Education (’12)
Studied In: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Study Abroad

Studying abroad changed Sober’s approach to the college-to-career transition, which included a dedicated effort researching possible careers with international aspects. This work heightened Sober’s interest in working in Fair Trade advocacy. Much of Sober’s inspiration for Fair Trade is rooted in her experiences studying abroad in Argentina, where she lived with an artisan woman and became fascinated with street fairs across the country.

Changemaker Update

In May 2013, Natalie completed an intensive Applied Business Certification through the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. She has since relocated to Seattle, WA. Natalie is actively pursuing her passions — food and fair/direct trade — both developing her own small food business venture and working as a customer service manager with direct trade retailer Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Company. She feels good being part of a direct trade organization that pays farmers well above even what fair trade does.

Nate Hovee

Home University: Western Kentucky University
Major: Broadcasting and Theater (’13)
Studied In: Istanbul, Turkey

Study Abroad

Nate studied at Yeditepe University as part of an international exchange program in Instanbul. “Old City” is known for multiple famous buildings and sites, including Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, the Grand Bazaar, and mosques from the 16th and 17th centuries. While in Turkey, he shot footage during the protests there, which was featured – along with an interview with Nate – on CNN.

While exploring this unique part of Istanbul in September, he stopped for a picture in Mehmet Akif Ersoy Park. In the background, the Sultanahmet Mosque, commonly referred to as the “Blue Mosque” for its richly colored ceiling tiles, rises above the ancient city.

Changemaker Update

Nate returned to Istanbul to complete a photography internship. In addition to being a videographer, Nate is a photographer and a documentary producer. Following the completion of his internship this summer, Nate accepted a crew position with Qatar Airways and is based out of Doha, Qatar. Intermingled with his time up in the air, Nate plans to produce a travel documentary on Qatar next.

Nate is a storyteller with long-term desires including:

  • Work with Rick Steves
  • Fulbright participant in Thailand
  • Peace Corps work
  • Documentary film project on the Maori and tourism in New Zealand
  • News work with National Geographic

Michael Zeller

Home University: University of Louisville
Major: History and Political Science (’12)
Studied In: Moscow, Russia

Study Abroad

Michael, a history and political science major at the University of Louisville, studied at Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia, for a year. While in Moscow he interned with a human rights organization called Memorial, which started at the end of the Soviet Union, bringing light to the full extent of activities during Stalin’s regime. Michael’s work and research led to a paper and a partnership with a museum in Washington, D.C. to highlight the information about this little known part of Russian history.

Michael reports that “study abroad is an end to itself. Our cultural divides are as deep as ever. You need people who can act as intermediaries between cultures. In Russia, for example, it is impossible to do any business without personal relationships, personal connections.”

Changemaker Update

Michael is completing a PhD in European studies and international relations at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Abel Garibay

Home University: University of California, Davis
Major: Spanish; Neurobiology, Physiology, & Behavior (’11)
Studied In: Oaxaca, Mexico

Study Abroad

Abel, a graduate of UC Davis, participated in an international education program in Oaxaca, Mexico. His program focused on medical-related issues, and while in Mexico, he spent three days a week working in medical clinics. His international education is proving immediately valuable in his current life in Watsonville, working with (among others) immigrants from Oaxaca. He has a goal of ultimately helping Latinas in the U.S. with the knowledge he gained in the Oaxaca program. Without a scholarship from FGS, Abel says he wouldn’t have been able to participate in the program.

Changemaker Update

His study abroad experience reaffirmed his goal of becoming a physician, most likely in family practice, so he can see more and a wider variety of patients. He has aspirations of serving the under served, particularly immigrant populations. However, before Abel continues his education in medical school, he will first become the educator. In August, Abel returned to Mexico to take up an English teaching assistantship with Fulbright.

Lauren Presutti

Home University: Central Michigan University
Major: Sociology (’14)
Studied In: Perth, Australia

Study Abroad

For Lauren Presutti, a sociology major at Central Michigan University (CMU), the personal discovery that came from studying abroad in Australia this summer was well worth the many months of planning, questioning and hard work. Presutti, from Milford, Mich., has Muscular Dystrophy and uses a wheelchair to get around, which made her decision to participate in the five-week“Wanju Boodjah: Aboriginal Studies” in Perth, Australia, a daring one. She embraced the opportunity, however, with enthusiasm and overcame challenges as they presented themselves each day. In completing the June-July program, she became the first person from her university to travel abroad from a power wheelchair.

Read more about Lauren at Global Links.

Changemaker Update

Inspired to subsequent study abroad in Ireland, Japan, and South Africa, she plans to pursue master’s work in sociology focusing on cross-cultural awareness. Ultimately, she wants to work in higher education helping other students get the same experiences and support.

Rachel Smerer

Home University: Central Michigan University
Major: Sociology (’14)
Studied In: Perth, Australia

Study Abroad

With scholarship support from the Foundation for Global Scholars, Rachel Smerer participated in an international internship in India, where she conducted research on multiple Indian nonprofits while working for a nonprofit that primarily served women and children in poverty. Her work led to a thesis that won the “Best Thesis” award in the Honors Program at the University of North Dakota. Since graduation, Rachel served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, working with refugee populations in North Dakota and applying what she learned in India to her current nonprofit experience.

“Without the scholarship support from the Foundation for Global Scholars, I don’t believe I could have completed my research, because I would have not been able to stay long enough to gain the valuable perspective on Indian culture and the challenges facing Indian nonprofits,” says Smerer. “The support I received paid for my daily living expenses, including transportation and groceries.”

Changemaker Update

Rachel envisions a career in international aid and development, with a focus on aiding the poor across Asia. Rachel took the first step to such a career by volunteering this summer in India at Prime Trust/India Volunteer Care. Upon returning to the States, Rachel has relocated to Minnesota to pursue professional opportunities in the nonprofit sector.

Mycal Ford

Home University: Pacific Lutheran University
Major: Chinese Studies and Political Science (‘12)
Studied In: Chengdu, China

Study Abroad

As a result of his time in China, Mycal changed his career direction and decided to major in Chinese Studies. He was particularly struck by how he, as a Black American in China, could represent another dimension of American culture, particularly in Asia, where people-of-color are generously under-represented — unless portrayed in sports. “I realized that I wanted to build transracial understanding,” Ford reports. He is currently a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan as an English Teaching Assistant based in Kaohsiung. “As a first-generation, low-income, student-of-color, navigating through the unknown realm of higher education, I’ve experienced the burden that can come with finances. The Foundation for Global Scholars scholarship helped alleviate the financial burden and provided me with the necessary resources to mitigate day-to-day costs that would have otherwise prevented me from experiencing Chinese culture.”

Changemaker Update

Last year, Mycal completed a year in Kaohsiung, Taiwan as part of the Fulbright program, and in the fall, he began a masters program in International Affairs: Global Governance, Politics, and Security at American University’s School of International Service. During his first semester, Mycal interned on Capitol Hill in the Office of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). He says, it “was an excellent opportunity to learn about the legislative process.” This semester, he is interning at the U.S. Department of State Bureau of East Asia and Pacific, Office of Regional and Security Policy.

Sophia Moore

Home University: Colorado State University
Major: Music and Biological Sciences (’12)
Studied In: Christchurch and Wellington, New Zealand

Study Abroad

During her first semester in Christchurch, the city suffered a series of catastrophic earthquakes and her school was closed. Undaunted, Sophia flew to New Zealand’s North Island, convinced another university to accept her, and continued her studies. Everything she knew about veterinary practices and farming was changed during her time in NZ working on sheep farms and with the country’s vets, which she compared to a James Herriot novel. The shift from a pure business perspective (U.S.) to an animal perspective (NZ) “made me into a different person.”

Changemaker Update

Her New Zealand experience gave Sophia an ideal version of what veterinary medicine could be. She has completed her first year of vet school at Colorado State University, and this summer she conducted research under Dr. David Argyle, Head of University of Edinburgh’s vet school. They worked on the link between cellular prion protein and cancer. Sophia has returned to CSU for her second year of veterinary school.

Molly Bloom

Home University: University of Colorado
Major: Linguistics (’11)
Studied In: Dunedin, New Zealand

Study Abroad

Molly Bloom was a linguistics major at the University of Colorado. She studied abroad in New Zealand, where she studied Maori. Bloom, who lost her leg five years ago in a vehicle accident, is a Denver resident and part of a national championship wheelchair basketball team. Using her crutches and prosthetic leg in New Zealand, she travelled, studied the language, and even explored the Moeraki Boulders. Support from FGS made her trip possible.

Read more at the Denver Post

Changemaker Update

Molly is getting her PhD in linguistics anthropology at the University of Arizona. She will be heading to Morocco in the near future to research disabilities in that part of the world. She plans to teach in the future.

Brendan Morrell

Home University: University of Pittsburgh
Major: Chinese, Philosophy, & Linguistics (’12)
Studied In: Mongolia, China

Study Abroad

Brendan, University of Pittsburgh alum, received two scholarships from FGS. He first participated in a field studies program to Mongolia, China, and Russia, completing basic research on traditional medicine used in those countries. Following his senior year, he studied Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan, where he continues to live and study, supplementing his study through work with Costco as a translator.

He reports that his international programs slanted him toward an international career, but the firsthand experiences in China gave him the necessary basis to speak Mandarin.

The scholarship support he received enabled Brendan to complete his research, as he bore the research and translation expenses in Mongolia. His Taiwan support enabled him to give full time attention to his Mandarin language that is now helping support him; without the scholarship he would needed to find on a job and compromise his language endeavor.

Changemaker Update

Brendan began a master’s program in international relations at National Taiwan University and plans to pursue a career in International Relations.

Chad Pennington

Home University: University of Colorado
Major: Linguistics (’09)
Studied In: Beijing, China

Study Abroad

Chad attended an intensive language program in Mandarin Chinese at Beijing University in summer 2009 while completing his master’s degree. He was subsequently accepted into a Taiwanese language study program for a year and is now teaching full time at the English Center at the University of Colorado.

Chad’s experience in Beijing piqued his interest in US-China relations, which he has continued to foster. An entrepreneur as well as an academic, Chad is part of team that is creating a web-based Chinese language program helping U.S. companies and individuals seeking to do business in China. His enterprise,, provides practical language skills focused on economics, business, and culture.

Chad used the scholarship support from FGS to pay for the majority of his living expenses. “That’s what fed me,” he reports. The funding allowed him to concentrate his time and attention to the demands of his language program.

Changemaker Update

Chad is teaching at the University of Colorado and advising foreign students. He continues to study Chinese and plans to work in cooperative education programs between universities in the U.S. and China, starting with a partnership between CU-Boulder and a comparable school in China.