USAC scholarships help students from underrepresented groups study abroad

First-generation college student scholarships also part of study abroad effort

Esmeralda Torres in a scenic USAC spot

TRiO Scholar Esmeralda Torres spent her study abroad time in Bilbao, Spain, in fall 2018.

USAC scholarships help students from underrepresented groups study abroad

First-generation college student scholarships also part of study abroad effort

TRiO Scholar Esmeralda Torres spent her study abroad time in Bilbao, Spain, in fall 2018.

Esmeralda Torres in a scenic USAC spot

TRiO Scholar Esmeralda Torres spent her study abroad time in Bilbao, Spain, in fall 2018.

For many college students, the idea of study abroad seems like a dream. Being able to spend a summer, semester or year in another country seems only possible if you're in a non-technical area of study or have an endless supply of funding.

However, the University of Nevada, Reno's study abroad organization, USAC, along with national organizations, are working hard to extend study abroad opportunities to underrepresented students.

One of the most prestigious national scholarships is the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students with limited resources. Only one in four applications receive the Gilman Scholarship and over the last several years more than 50 students from the University have been the recipients, including the four students highlighted in this article.

However, this is not the only scholarship that is helping underrepresented students study abroad. USAC alone awards more than $2 million in scholarships and discounts each year and offers a First-Generation Scholarship, STEM Scholarship, Diversity Excellence Scholarship, Military Scholarship, and the Frances. C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation Scholarship, among others. In addition, all University students are eligible to be considered for USAC funded college-specific scholarships as long as their GPA is 3.0 or higher, and federal financial aid and most Nevada scholarships can be used for USAC programs.

The following students are recipients of the Gilman Scholarship as well as a variety of additional scholarships, and they're also heavily involved on the University campus.

Name: Diana Meza Garcia
Study Abroad Location: San Sebastián, Spain, Fall 2018
Involvement on Campus: ASUN intern, Peer Advisor for USAC, member of A.B.L.E.

Scholarships Received

National Study Abroad Scholarships: Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship

USAC/UNR Study Abroad Scholarships: Passport Scholarship, First Generation Scholarship, Diversity Excellence Scholarship, USAC College of Liberal Arts Scholarship, Kody Bressman Memorial Scholarship, RJ Simcoe Memorial Scholarship, Frances C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation Scholarship

Quote: "As scared as I was to study abroad, I was most afraid of looking back one day and regretting not having done it. I made a lot of excuses at the beginning, telling myself that I had to wait for "the right time," but eventually I realized that no time is ever the right time for anything. Life is too spontaneous for that. But also, in a strange way, I almost felt called to do it. I had the desire to travel, meet new people, make new friends and have adventures. Plus, the program I chose allowed me to get 15 applicable credits towards my major, and I just couldn't say no to that."

"I've always known that I would like my future career to involve traveling, and studying abroad only confirmed that for me. I have a big dream of working for the Department of State as a diplomat, and it goes without saying that being able to thrive in a foreign country is very important for that job. I've also thought about teaching English in other countries, something past teachers I've had have encouraged me to do, and I had the opportunity to experience what it would be like through my program in San Sebastián. I was able to give English lessons to local children, and the memories the experience left me with are some I'll never forget. It was hard, definitely, but studying abroad opened up career opportunities for me that I'd never really considered before, and I'm very grateful."

Name: Esmeralda Torres
Study Abroad Location: Bilbao, Spain, Fall 2018
Involvement on Campus: Spanish Club, International Club, TRiO Scholars Program

Scholarships Received

National Study Abroad Scholarships: Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship

USAC/UNR Study Abroad Scholarships: USAC College of Business Scholarship, RJ Simcoe Memorial Scholarship

Quote: "I decided to study abroad because I wanted to enrich my education while developing professional skills at an international level and develop an appreciation for diversity. One of my main goals for studying abroad was in hopes of learning different business strategies that could potentially help me develop my own business and be able to employ people from my community in the future. I studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain as it was the perfect fit for my major due to the number of business classes that I could take and counted towards my major. It was also the perfect program because I got to learn about two different cultures at the same time, the Spanish and the Basque. I also got the opportunity to learn a little bit of Euskera [Basque language]. Last but not least, Bilbao was a perfect fit as a business major because the city itself is known for its industrial developments and there are so many local businesses all over the city.

"Studying abroad with the help of these scholarships was a life-changing experience. By stepping outside of my own culture to be part of another culture, I learned to appreciate, respect, and love other cultures and traditions. I was able to complete two internships abroad, one with PMP Management Factory and I participated in the Virtual Firms Applied to University (VFAU), which helped me experience the local culture in the workplace as well as helping me improve my professional foreign language skills which have prepared me to work effectively in an increasingly global experience."

Name: Tania Gonzalez Contreras
Study Abroad Location: Reggio Emilia, Fall 2017
Involvement on Campus: TRiO Scholars Program, President of Phi Alpha Delta, Latinx Student Advisory Board

Scholarships Received

National Study Abroad Scholarships: Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship
USAC/UNR Study Abroad Scholarships: Frances C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation Scholarship, Diversity Excellence Scholarship, Passport Scholarship, Europe Regional Scholarship, USAC College of Liberal Arts Scholarships, First Generation Scholarship

Quote: "I chose to study abroad because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and seek the thrill of experiencing what's out there. Plus, once I learned about the Reggio Emilia program I could not do otherwise. It was perfect because it allowed me to earn credits, offered internships in my field, and allowed me to immerse myself in the Italian culture because of its small, quaint, and authentic program city.

"Receiving scholarships allowed me to study abroad, which literally changed my life. I learned more about myself, grew as a person, and I would argue my perspective on life improved. As a human, it is vital to enrich our perspective and persona by undergoing a diverse array of experiences. I can honestly say that studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I have made."

Name: William Garibaldo
Study Abroad Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand, Spring 2019
Involvement on Campus: TRiO Scholars Program, Student Worker at Upward Bound, Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity member

Scholarships Received

National Study Abroad Scholarships: Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship

USAC/UNR Study Abroad Scholarships: USAC College of Business Scholarship

Quote: "I choose to study abroad because I wanted to experience something different. I have lived in Reno my whole life, and I wanted to see what else was out there. I learned that many people said studying abroad was the best experience they had in college, while people who had not studied abroad said that was their biggest regret in college.

"As a first-generation student, studying abroad looks impossible to do. It is so intimidating because nobody we know has ever done it. But, I as well as many other first-generation students, have been able to study abroad because of scholarships. I know I would not be studying abroad right now if it wasn't for Upward Bound, so I hope to also encourage other first-generation students to study abroad."
Studying Abroad with Scholarships

For students who are looking to study abroad and hope to receive scholarships to help them pay for their studies, the students featured in this article say it's all about the essay.

"Set yourself apart with your writing. In my mind, the content of the opening paragraph is critical. Those first seconds of reading dictate how close of attention the reader will apply to the rest of the essay," Tania said.

There are also several on and off campus resources to help students create a strong scholarship application.

"I suggest working closely with your scholarship advisor, your program advisor, and outside of campus resources. I was blessed enough to cover my entire study abroad cost with scholarships, and this was due to the amazing support I received from the USAC Scholarship Advisor, Sonia Meza, and my TRiO coach, Heather Williams, who provided me tips and ideas for my scholarship essays," Esmeralda said.

Through these scholarships, University students are not only receiving the opportunity to study abroad but are able to give back to their community. Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship scholars are required to complete a service project, and all four of these recipients have chosen to educate the community youth on the possibilities of study abroad. Tania presented to fellow TRiO peers about study abroad, William plans to create a guide and presentation on study abroad for fellow Upward Bound students, and Esmeralda and Diana will be presenting on the opportunity and feasibility of study abroad to local high school students at Edward C. Reed High School and Wooster High School.

Each year, more than 350 University students take their studies abroad. USAC and national organizations continue to break the barriers of study abroad for underrepresented students.

USAC has two scholarship deadlines per year: March 15 for Summer and Fall programs, and Oct. 15 for January and Spring programs. You can learn more about USAC scholarships at usac.edu/scholarships

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