Five Students Receive Prestigious Gilman Scholarship to Study Abroad
Last Updated on December 18, 2020 at 12:00 AM
Originally published December 18, 2020
By Julian Herrera
Five undergraduates at The University of Texas at El Paso will study abroad with the support of the U.S. Department of State’s prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.
The Gilman Scholarship supports U.S. undergraduate students who plan to study or intern abroad through the end of 2021.
“We’re so proud of this group of talented students for securing this prestigious scholarship, and are looking forward to seeing these students take on these life-changing and impactful educational experiences,” said Catie McCorry-Andalis, Ed.D., associate vice president for student engagement and dean of students at UTEP.
This year's five Gilman Scholars were awarded a combined $22,000. They include:
- Annette Escarcega, freshman media advertising major, who will study in Spain.
- Marian Loaeza, sophomore civil engineering major, who will study in South Korea.
- Safia Raja, sophomore biological sciences major, who will study in France.
- Lesley Torres-Quintana, senior criminal justice major and general business minor, who will study in Spain.
- Gerado Vargas, junior biochemistry major who will study in South Korea.
The Congressionally funded Gilman program broadens the U.S. student population studying abroad by providing scholarships to outstanding undergraduate Pell Grant recipients.
“We always encourage UTEP students to pursue these educational opportunities, and are pleased to have prestigious programs like the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship recognize the talent of our students,” said Melanie Meinzer, Ph.D., director of UTEP’s Office of Student Fellowships and Awards.
Due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, students are able to defer their program through the end of 2021, or can elect to participate in a virtual study abroad or international internship program.
Escarcega identifies with the many expressions and the art of her destination country of Spain, which she said holds many opportunities for communications in media and an advanced educational system. Majoring in media advertising, Escarcega’s professional and personal interests were piqued in Spain, and she hopes to work as an account planner or creative director at an advertising company before eventually pursuing a degree in journalism.
“I realized I am capable of doing many things. Every small step counts and, with effort, it leads to a lot of great opportunities,” she said.
Loaeza chose South Korea for a myriad of reasons beyond the culture and hands-on life experiences it offers. As a civil engineering major, she found the country’s progressivism, strong economy, impressive modern architecture and ideals to be most suited to her future plans. Loaeza aims to work at the corporate level in civil engineering, taking part in projects that positively impact the lives of people and improve the infrastructure of the community while supporting the environment.
“You have to take a chance on anything you do. Studying abroad is for you to thrive and explore more of what is out there — global connections, unforgettable memories, and even finding your place in this world,” Loaeza said.
Raja, a biological sciences major with a minor in French, is the first in her family to attend college in the United States. She previously studied abroad in France. However, due to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, her experience was shortened. The Gilman Scholarship offers an opportunity to return to France to complete her experience and fully embrace the culture.
“Studying abroad is an excellent way to expand your perspective, interact with other people, and prepares you to deal with complex situations,” she said.
Torres-Quintana lived in Mexico for 17 years and is a first-generation college student. She is planning to open her own business and said that the opportunity to study in Spain will be an enriching experience that will broaden her understanding and perspective of the world and allow her to embrace various cultural interests in her community. She is currently majoring in criminal justice and is seeking employment with the FBI.
“I encourage everyone to try applying,” Torres-Quintana said. “It’s like a training for next semester. If you are not selected, you can try again.”
Vargas is the first in his family to attend college in the United States, and he hopes to expand his linguistic and cultural horizons in South Korea. Majoring in biochemistry and preparing his application for graduate school, Vargas hopes to take full advantage of the STEM courses in South Korea and believes studying abroad will showcase his willingness to take on new experiences.
“Plan ahead, save money … just do everything you can to accomplish [your goals],” Vargas said.