By Daniel Perez
UTEP News Service
Studying abroad was a cost-prohibitive dream for UTEP senior Ana Guzman until she learned about a national program. Now the civil engineering major is days away from an eight-week odyssey to Istanbul.
Guzman is one of 10 students from The University of Texas at El Paso who will study overseas this summer and fall in places such as Rome, Paris, Shanghai and Barcelona with the help of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.
The Houston-based Gilman program was established in 2000 to assist students who have traditionally been underrepresented when it comes to study abroad, such as those from minority-serving institutions, diverse ethnic backgrounds, and those interested in nontraditional study destinations or critical needs languages. The program also seeks out first-generation college students, students with disabilities and students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Guzman, a native of Juárez, Mexico, said her family moved to the El Paso area when she was 10 years old for better opportunities. She did well in school and earned a Presidential Scholarship to UTEP, where she has excelled academically and participated in several engineering student organizations and honor societies. She applied for the Gilman scholarship because she saw it as a way to expand her horizons.
“This experience will help me improve my communication and networking skills,” said Guzman, who said she looks forward to discovering different ways to learn and to solve problems as she takes courses in the Turkish language and civil engineering. She leaves El Paso on Monday, June 16. “I will be forced to be more responsible at being independent and managing my time.”
The other summer Gilman scholars, their majors and their destinations are: Vanessa Diaz, English, Rome; Karen Morales, languages and linguistics, Rome; Larry Owens, languages and linguistics, Shanghai; and Mauro Ruiz, biochemistry, Barcelona.
The fall scholars are Fernando Estrada, anthropology, Amman, Jordan; Pedro Garcia, political science, Amman; Damian Hurtado, accounting, Paris; Wendy Soto, psychology, Salamanca, Spain; and Luis Villa, international business and economics, Shanghai.
This is the first year UTEP Gilman scholars will travel to Shanghai and the first time in several years Jordan and Turkey are among the destinations.
Several of the University’s Gilman scholars mentioned how much the financial support helped them study abroad. One of the scholarship criteria is the applicant must have financial need as demonstrated by being a Pell Grant recipient.
“Financial constraints are the No. 1 reason students do not participate in these programs, and this scholarship provides a wonderful opportunity for students to earn funding to offset the cost of their programs,” said Niamh Minion, UTEP Study Abroad Office coordinator.
The fall scholars received a total of $20,500, which puts the University on track to break the previous record of $59,500 set during the 2012-13 academic year. The maximum award is $5,000 per student.
Summer scholar Mauro Ruiz arrived in Spain May 31 and was “amazed, surprised and excited” to be selected, he said. The UTEP junior said the experience has taken him outside his comfort zone and should make him a better student, professional and human being.
“I see this as a wonderful enrichment experience because it is helping me change the way I approach things,” Ruiz said. “It is helping me mature, assimilate the different styles of teaching, and more importantly (I’m) learning how to deal with people from all around the world.”
UTEP junior Luis Villa will be in Shanghai for the fall, but will be living out of his suitcase all summer. He took a Maymester course in Munich and will spend June in Europe. He will travel to China in July for a UTEP online course before he starts his Gilman studies.
Villa, who like Ruiz is an El Paso native raised in Juárez, said he will take business courses and a class in Mandarin this fall. The first-generation college student will use his free time to learn how to meditate and take side trips.
Villa said he requested Shanghai to help enhance his effort to join the U.S. Peace Corps after graduation and use those experiences toward a graduate degree before entering the workforce in urban development or international affairs.
Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, the program’s sponsor, touted international education as one of the best tools to develop mutual understanding and build connections between people from different countries.
“It is critical to the success of American diplomacy and business, and the lasting ties that Americans make during their international studies are important to our country in times of conflict as well as times of peace,” Goodman said.
The deadline to apply for a spring 2015 Gilman Scholarship is Oct. 7, 2014.