Going Global with Prestigious Scholarships

More than a dozen awards send USF students to Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Jun. 7, 2011) – An increasing number of University of South Florida students are earning places among those selected to receive prestigious scholarships, fellowships and internships to broaden their horizons around the globe.


They’ve been chosen from among thousands across the nation competing for extraordinary and coveted honors.


A Fulbright scholarship is taking a student to Wales. Three Gilman Scholars are headed to China along with two to Ghana and one to Argentina, bringing this year’s Gilman total to six. Another student has won a Freeman-ASIA award to study in China, as well, while two more are headed to Europe, one with a United Kingdom Fulbright Scholarship and the other to Spain with a CNIO Fellowship. Still another will land in India with a 2011 Yuva for SEWA Fellowship. The U.S. State Department awarded two scholarships to study critical languages and there’s a particularly prominent overseas internship in the group – destination Croatia.


Ila Jones successfully competed for a UK Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Wales Summer Institute, one of only eight in that program. She will visit three universities and various historical sites.


Farah Britto, a mass communications major with an anthropology minor and Nathan Moore, an economics major, will go to Ghana with their Gilman Scholarships. Biology major Tina Danh, International business student Silvia Monroy, and Crystal Rodgers, a finance major, are going to China as part of USF’s Chinese Learning in the Culture Tier 1 Program with the funding provided by Gilman scholarships. Lazaro Navarro, a social sciences major, is going to Argentina with his Gilman Scholarship. Also taking part in the Tier 1 Chinese Learning in Culture program is Andrea Farinas, who won a Freeman-ASIA award.


Christie Campla is headed to Spain. She is one of up to only twelve students from around the world honored with a precious slot at CNIO where she will take part in studying epithelial carcinogenesis. CNIO (Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncologicas), Spain’s National Cancer Research Center, is ranked among the top cinco primeros centros de investigación biomédica del mundo, gozando de un granfive biomedical research institutes in the world and enjoys tremendousprestigio internacional. international prestige.


The United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Critical Language Scholarships for summer study abroad were awarded to Ginger Johnson, a doctoral student in applied anthropology and Demelza Hays, an undergraduate international business major. Johnson will study Arabic in Tunisia and Hays will study Punjabi in India, taking part in intensive institutes in their respective countries. 


One of a precious few SEWA Fellows, Lauren Richardson, an Honors College student and international studies major was awarded an internship to work with a local non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Pune region of India for 10 weeks this summer. Surajya Sarwangin Vikas Prakalpa is an organization that works in the slums on the outskirts of Maharashtra. 


There she will document and analyze the social process of empowerment in children. SEWA International is one of the largest non-profit groups in India and the fellowship program selects only 10 to 12 students from across the country each year to travel to various parts of India as interns.


With her security clearance in hand, junior Tamara Simunovic, an international studies major, is on her way to Zagreb, Croatia, to intern in the United States Embassy through a Department of State Internship program this summer. After serving as associate director for governmental affairs this year in Student Government, Simunovic is working towards a career in international affairs where she can have an impact on public policy. 


Fanning Out Across the Globe


Jones, a sophomore in the College of Public Health, valued the help she received in her successful bid for the highly competitive UK Fulbright program.


The good thing about the process of applying at USF was the help and guidance of the scholarship advisors,” Jones said. “They made sure that deadlines were met, reviewed all materials, and made sure everything was in pristine condition before sending off.” 


The hardest part for her was anxiously awaiting the results, especially since she had both academic and personal reasons for wanting the scholarship.


“My first year at USF, I had an amazing suitemate from Wales. She was a study abroad student, and I really became interested in her Welsh culture. She is who I credit for driving me to study abroad in Wales. Because of our amazing friendship and the vast array of experiences sprouted from her traveling to the States, it inspired me to do the same in her country.”


The three Gilman Scholars headed for China are travelling separately but will converge in Beijing. Their itinerary is packed with orientations, events and places to see. 


Danh, a junior started taking “Modern Chinese” at USF with Assistant Professor Eric Shepherd.  Learning Chinese only increased her long-held interest in China. 


“It really made me want to go to China to see their culture in person,” she said. “The language is difficult and challenging to learn but it's also very fun and interesting. It really opens your eyes to different cultures and how differently we may perceive things. I also feel that if I don't take this opportunity, I might never have the chance again. We must seize the night! There's only so much you can read about a country, it's another story to actually experience being there.” 


Britto has had a great interest in Africa for a long time. The first thing she plans to do when she arrives is take photos and shoot video. 


“I plan on having my video and still cameras attached to me the whole trip, so I can capture all the moments and experiences that I have there,” said Britto who currently works for WEDU.  Interested in cultural anthropology, she wants to specialize in visual anthropology and become a documentarian and professional photographer.


“I am interested in looking at social media in African countries, such as Ghana, and can study this topic through the use of images and video,” she said.  “I wanted to go to a place that was completely different from what I'm used to, and to experience situations and cultures that I will hopefully be exposed to further in my future career. I feel that this experience will really further my career goals. I am very excited to be studying abroad this summer.”


Excitement also comes close to describing Monroy’s feelings. The Gilman Scholar is a junior and an international business and marketing major with Asia as her area of concentration.

“I feel honored to represent the University of South Florida at China’s Ocean University this summer,” she said. “I am beyond excited to be traveling there. This is my first time flying out of the country and could not have chosen a better place to study abroad. This will allow me to utilize everything I have learned in my Chinese I and II this year.”

With two years of Mandarin Chinese under her belt, Monroy is already envisioning working in the nation’s capital once she has mastered Mandarin Chinese and graduates. 


“This past summer I interned at the House of Representatives and during a late night jog by the embassy of China I had a life-changing experience – realizing that this was where I would apply everything I will learn in China and at USF. Eventually, I would love to work and live in China but for now I will focus on having a fun and my learning experience in China.”


USF’s commitment to going global has caught on in a big way. In the 2009-2010 academic year, more than 800 USF students participated in an education abroad experience. In the past three years, nine USF students have been awarded Gilman Scholarships to support travels to the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Greece, Japan, and Sweden.


“Interest in international education opportunities has surged on campus,” said Penny Carlton, an advisor in the Office of National Scholarships. “We recommend that students come to our office early in their university career in order to learn about scholarship opportunities. Internships are a great way for students to gain experience and develop their scholarship profile for other awards. There are many opportunities for outstanding students as early as freshman year to apply for merit scholarships to study or research abroad, as well as for graduate school.”


Carlton and her colleagues provide all the information and help students need to prepare applications for the numerous scholarship programs available that support studying overseas as well as teaching internships in countless countries.   


Deadlines vary. For example, the next one for the Fulbright Scholarship will be Aug. 29 with the Gilman Scholarship following close behind on Sept. 9, for the spring 2012 term. For more information contact the Office of National Scholarships at nationalscholarships@usf.edu.


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563