“There is a huge range of opportunities to choose from in our office because we know there is a variety of student needs, academic and financial. My advice for students looking to study abroad is not to put up barriers before you have all the information. Come and talk to me. Whatever you think may prevent you from going, whether it’s finances, or if you think your major wouldn’t allow you to study abroad, whatever it might be, we can look into it and advise you and explore all the options to try to make it work. There is something for everyone,” Labs said.
Ja’Lisa Little is one student who was able to study abroad because of a competitive scholarship that she received, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
Little, who has been interested in East Asian culture since childhood, is now studying at Nagoya University in Japan, one of UTC’s bilateral exchange partners. She will be studying intensive Japanese language during her time abroad, working towards her degree requirements as a Humanities: International Studies major.
“We don’t have a big Japanese program here, so I’m looking forward to that experience,” said Little.
Little’s goal is to one day participate in the JET Program, an initiative sponsored by the Japanese government to promote internationalization at the grassroots level by bringing young, college-educated individuals to work in communities throughout Japan. However, the program requires participants to be fluent in Japanese, which Little hopes to accomplish in her time at Nagoya University.
“Where her interest lies, with her Japanese language study, she really has to go abroad to get that intensive, immersive experience that she needs, because we can only provide limited offerings in Japanese here on campus,” said Labs.
Little was one of only 800 American undergraduate students from 356 colleges and universities to receive the Gilman Scholarship. This competitive scholarship, available to Pell Grant recipients, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It aims to diversify the students who study and intern abroad and the countries and regions where they go, offering them the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies.
“This scholarship can really make the difference between studying abroad or not. She received the maximum award, as well as a critical language scholarship in addition to that, for a total of $8000. This is so fantastic because Japan can be an expensive place to travel to, even just the travel expense, so this was a huge help in getting Ja’Lisa there,” said Labs
“Kristin pointed me toward the scholarship and I’m so grateful because that’s how I was able to go, to afford the plane ticket and everything else. My mom had cancer in 2006 and I’ve had a job since I was 16 to help with bills and stuff. I couldn’t have gone without the scholarship,” Little said.
Little’s interest in Japan was reignited after she took Japanese classes here at UTC. Then, a chance encounter encouraged her to begin considering studying abroad.
“I visited the international office a couple of years ago, just to talk to some of some of the international students, but Kristin Labs talked me into studying abroad myself. And that’s how I started getting information and thinking about it,” Little said.
Elizabeth Tuggle, a UTC nursing major, was also selected to receive the Gilman Scholarship. Tuggle completed a program in Iceland in summer 2014 semester on renewable energy. This research focused program explores all aspects of renewable energy, from its sources in nature, to its technological utilization, to its social and environmental impacts. Tuggle was able to then present her undergraduate research at a conference in Indiana in February 2015.
“STEM majors tend to be nontraditional study abroad students, particularly nursing students. It can be more difficult to find study abroad opportunities that allow students to stay on track with their degree programs. With Elizabeth, we did find a program that was tied to the sciences, and with the Gilman Scholarship, she was able to go,” Labs said.
Louis Brill, a UTC Environmental Science major, is also participating in a research intensive study abroad program this semester. He is studying in Cambodia and Vietnam as a part of a field-based learning and research program, The Living Mekong. This program looks into conservation, water, and development in a changing climate, examining the effects of booming development on the region’s biodiversity. Through field research, students are given an understanding of the science behind local issues in water resources, climate change, food production, land use, and biodiversity.
“Both Elizabeth and Louis’s experiences are great examples of study abroad and undergraduate research coming together. It’s a great way for students to gain that research experience, which is a focus here at UTC, and students can then return and share that in-depth research once they return to Campus,” Labs said.
UTC students will also be studying abroad in these countries in spring 2015 semester: Russia, Costa Rica, Namibia, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, France, Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Cyprus, and United Kingdom.
“We are always looking for scholarships and funding opportunities for students, because not every opportunity is available to every student. So no matter your financial status, your major, your year, your work schedule, we do our best to make it work. I was a high financial need student myself, and I was able to study abroad for a year. It really is a great investment in your future,” Labs said.
Visit the UTC International Programs Office to learn more about study abroad and national exchange programs.