Expanding Educational Horizons with Study Abroad

The Study Abroad Office at UIC supports the mission of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to educate students in cultural literacy so that they graduate equipped with the skills and understanding to become fully-engaged citizens of our global society. Participating in international education opportunities can, however, be costly. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department, provides scholarship support for qualified students who hail from groups traditionally underrepresented in education-abroad programs.

Monica Fetherston (left) and her friend Emily on El Puente de la Mujer (Bridge of the Woman) in Buenos Aires. Photo courtesy of Fetherston

Monica Fetherston is pursuing a double major in Spanish and political science. For her study-abroad experience, she spent spring semester of her junior year in Buenos Aires, Argentina with the International Education Abroad program. IEA partners with the Universidad de Ciencias Sociales y Empresariale, where Monica took courses including “Argentine Politics and Government in a Comparative Perspective,” “Argentine Foreign Relations in the Americas and the World,” “Advanced Creative Writing” and “Advanced Spanish II.”

“Not only has this experience enriched my ability to speak and understand Spanish, but I was also able to take classes that apply to my political science major,” she said. “Learning the history, culture and politics of another country opened my mind and gave me a larger base with which to form ideas and opinions; it also enriched the background I have for further learning in the area of political science by experiencing a new perspective of how things are accomplished in the world of politics.”

After graduation, Fetherston hopes to realize a life-long dream of serving in the Peace Corps. If that doesn’t work out she plans to work on voter education in her home community of McHenry, Illinois. “From there, I will have to see where life takes me,” she said.

“Having this study abroad experience means the world to me. Ever since I fell in love with Spanish—around seventh grade—I have wanted to be immersed in the culture and language of a foreign country. This dream has come true through the Gilman Scholarship,” said Fetherston. “I have never traveled so far away from home and one of the reasons was financial. While I was growing up, my parents never had more money than we needed to barely scrape by, yet they instilled in me the idea that I can reach any goal or accomplish anything. Recently, I was asked what I would do if I had an extraordinarily large sum of money. It was easy to say that I would want to create a scholarship foundation. I never knew how important scholarships were until I needed one to pursue my goals. While hard work and effort are a must for pursuing any goal, I cannot wait to continue the philanthropic cycle and help a student enrich their life through study abroad.”

Alexander Guevara and friends. Photo courtesy of Guevara

Alexander Guevara is working toward a degree in criminology, law and justice. As a junior with post-graduation plans for a career in the military, Guevara spent 12 weeks based in Fez, Morocco studying colloquial Moroccan Arabic at the Language Institute, as well as taking coursework in “Gender, Modernization and Social Change in Morocco” and “Moroccan Society and Culture.” Guevara’s study abroad is a joint program of UIC and the University of Minnesota.

“I am interested in International Relations and having the opportunity to live in a foreign country for three months was extremely beneficial to my undergrad education,” he said. “The program allowed me to immerse myself in the Moroccan culture, while learning first-hand how Western culture impacts the daily lives of many Moroccans.

“The Gilman Scholarship gave me the opportunity not only to experience a foreign culture but to live among the people and assimilate myself to a culture I knew little about. My experiences in Morocco will stay with me forever. As Mark Twain said, ‘travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness’.”

Gilberto Moran in the Plaza del Mayor. Photo courtesy of Moran

Gilberto Moran is an economics major who spent spring semester of his junior year studying economics and Spanish history at the Madrid campus of St. Louis University.

Moran said his motto is YOLO: You Only Live Once and that he is grateful to the Gilman Scholarship for his first study abroad which gave him “the opportunity to live four months independently from home, get to know a different culture and explore different parts of Europe. It also was a great help with my major as I learned how to conduct research reports on topics pertaining to Spanish history and culture.”

Equal parts realist and romantic, Moran said that “after spending time in the south of Spain I would like to go back to Cadiz and open up a Mexican bar and grill on the beautiful beaches in Andalusia. But realistically, I will try to go on to business school and get my master’s degree.”

Grant Buhr, a senior majoring in sociology, went to Ecuador with the study-abroad program of the School for International Training. Buhr immersed himself in the culture and development of the country, focusing on language, culture, politics, history, identity and the challenges of implementing the country’s new constitution.