Zach Allen planned to study abroad in summer 2020 then in spring 2021, but the world had other plans. With travel and entry into Peru and Ecuador restricted due to COVID-19 and universities in Latin America shifting to virtual classes, Allen had to be flexible (and hopeful). Now with his senior year coming up, he hopes to spend the fall semester studying at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador.
Studying Spanish in an immersive environment is a dream come true for Allen. USFQ also offers courses in Quechua, which is the language of the indigenous Quechua people who live across Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia. As a linguistics major at the University of Mississippi, studying a lesser-known language such as Quechua informs his studies in language and culture. Language is key to understanding the culture from which it comes, and studying both Spanish and Quechua will give Allen insight into the rich Ecuadorian and Quechuan cultures. “USFQ is one of the top three universities in Ecuador. It is a popular destination for UM students not only for the variety of courses offered in both Spanish and English, but also for the opportunities to study biology in the Galapagos Islands, to live with host families, and to enjoy extracurricular activities sponsored by the International Office that help students adjust and integrate into Ecuadorian life.” said Jasmine Karlowski, advisor for Latin America in the Study Abroad Office.
Allen is a recipient of the prestigious Gilman Scholarship for his studies in the fall. “I was awarded a scholarship this fall, on my second try, for $4,500. This scholarship truly helps the cost not be prohibitive in choosing to study abroad.” The Gilman Scholarship has two application cycles each year, in October and March. Eligible undergraduate students are U.S. citizens and Pell Grant recipients who are applying for credit-bearing study abroad programs. The program also prioritizes studying in non-traditional locations and encourages under-represented students in study abroad. Students can apply until they are awarded, but they can only get the scholarship once during their undergraduate careers. “I certainly encourage all students to apply for the Gilman Scholarship as many times as it takes! Persistence pays off. ” said Allen.
While international travel and study abroad have additional challenges and considerations due to the pandemic, Blair McElroy, senior international officer and director of study abroad, encouraged other UM students to consider applying for study abroad opportunities in the future.
“Studying abroad increases intercultural competency, a skill that individuals need when working and interacting in increasingly global workplaces and environments,” McElroy said. “The global pandemic has shown us that more than ever, the world needs people who understand globalization and topics such as pandemics, health care access and systems, international trade, climate change, global supply chains, food and water security, and sustainability in our local and global communities. Global education will continue to be important and will occur with more frequency in the near future. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated when eligible as that will be the quickest way to a return to traditional study abroad programs with fewer covid protocols and reinstate the benefits such as home stays, hands-on experiences, international internships on location, and large group visits to cultural destinations.”
The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic prosperity. The Institute of International Education has administered the program since its inception in 2001. The Gilman Program also encompasses the Gilman-McCain Scholarship program which grants scholarships for study abroad to military-connected students and location-specific Gilman scholarships in partnership with foreign governments.
The deadline to apply for the Gilman Scholarship for programs beginning in Summer 2021, Fall 2021, and Spring 2022 is March 9, 2021. Apply now!