LAS Gilman Scholars Study on Three Continents

This past summer four LAS students took their studies to destinations across the globe, thanks to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. The Gilman Scholarship, funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, seeks to expand access to study abroad programs to students who may otherwise be underrepresented in their fields of study or who are faced with financial constraints. The LAS summer 2013 Gilman scholars shared their stories:

Duran Fabiola

Fabiola Duran.

Anthropology major Fabiola Duran explored an excavation site in southern Peru while working with the Museo Contisuyo, an affiliate of The Field Museum.

“I really enjoyed this study abroad experience because I learned an enormous amount about the latest excavation techniques,” Duran said. “When I first decided to major in anthropology, I was undecided about a primary focus but the Gilman trip helped me get hands-on experience actually doing everything I’ve read about in my textbooks; now I’m leaning toward archeology. The summer program also enriched my knowledge of the pre-Columbian Incas and gave me a good sense of other potential topics I might want to focus on in my career.”

Duran’s parents emigrated from Mexico 25 years ago. She dedicates her academic achievements to them and credits them for their hard work to support their family. “Both my parents are very supportive of me continuing in higher education,” she stated. “I took a chance and applied to study abroad, even though they weren’t too happy with me traveling alone to a different continent. Thanks to the Gilman Scholarship I was able to experience the real world head-on.”

Miglena Garkova

Miglena Garkova.

With plans for a career in nursing and a declared minor in Spanish, Miglena Garkova spent her summer exploring Valencia, Spain where she was enrolled in the Hispanic Studies Program through the University of Virginia. “It is my goal to continue to improve my Spanish language skills so that I become fluent and can more easily communicate with my Spanish-speaking patients,” said Garkova, who hopes to become a nurse practitioner.

During her Gilman summer, Garkova completed a 20th-century Latin American literature course that focused on analysis of Spanish-American literature and a survey course on modern art. Both classes integrated intensive reading, writing, and speaking of the Spanish language. These courses, in addition to living with a Spanish host family, were essential to her developing her Spanish conversational skills.

“Studying abroad has enriched my education by allowing me to be immersed in the culture in which I am interested. It not only let me participate in a different way of life and open my mind to new experiences, but also allowed me to improve my language fluency,” she said. “I would like to extend my appreciation to the Gilman program for giving me this invaluable opportunity to achieve my goals. I had an unforgettable experience in Spain, and it’s all thanks to you.”

Karina Hurtado

Karina Hurtado.

English major Karina Hurtado spent six weeks in Siena, Italy completing requirements for her Italian language minor through the UIC faculty-led program “Italian Language and Culture in Siena.”

“In addition to improving my speaking skills, I was able to learn a great deal about the Italian culture, starting from its Etruscan roots up through contemporary culture,” Hurtado said. “This was done through on-site visits to museums and historical structures all over Rome, Siena, and Florence, as well as in-class lectures.

“Studying in Italy for six weeks was such an enriching experience because it was something I worked very hard to achieve. All my effort paid off because I received help from not only the Gilman International Scholarship program, but also from UIC. Studying in the beautiful country of Italy will always be one the greatest experiences of my life.” 

Monica Sharma

Monica Sharma.

Biological Sciences major Monica Sharma took a break from her intense pre-med course load which includes a double minor in nutrition and chemistry—to study traditional eastern medical and healthcare practices in India with a program sponsored by SIT World Learning.

During her time abroad she took part in excursions to regions of northern India where traditional medical systems such as ayurveda, yoga, acupressure, Tibetan medicine, naturopathy, Unani, and homeopathy continue to flourish and are popularly practiced.

For Sharma, examining this more holistic approach to healthcare has helped broaden her outlook as she enters the medical field. “I’ve realized that I shouldn’t romanticize or criticize any particular type of medicine,” she said. “Some degree of uncertainty will always pervade medicine, and medicine will remain more of an art than a science.”

The future physician chose UIC after being accepted into the GPPA Medicine. “I knew that the kind of opportunities I could pursue at UIC would be unparalleled by any other institution.” Sharma said. “The guaranteed admissions program to the UIC medical school provided me the freedom and encouragement to explore my doubts about conventional medicine’s drug-centered approach to treating chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity—treatments that can leave behind adverse side effects.

“I am eternally grateful to the Gilman Scholarship for affording me the opportunity to embark on this journey to learn how traditional Eastern medicine parallels conventional Western medicine, and how the concept of holistic health can be incorporated in conventional medicine.”

Photos courtesy of Gilman scholars