Students Earn a Combined $17,000 to Study Abroad

By Rachel Anna Neff, Ph.D.

UTEP News Service

Four students enrolled at The University of Texas at El Paso received life-changing news: they were selected to receive Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarships to help them study abroad in the spring semester of 2014. One alternate candidate was also selected from UTEP.

The Gilman Scholarship Program is highly competitive, with more than 2,600 applications for approximately 700 awards. Of all the universities in Texas, UTEP came in second in the number of students selected to receive Gilman Scholarships. 

The 2014 Gilman Scholarship recipients from UTEP are, from left, Ricardo Myers, Maria Ruiz-Pineda, Carlos Nevarez and Lynette Escobar. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News ServiceThe 2014 Gilman Scholarship recipients from UTEP are, from left, Ricardo Myers, Maria Ruiz-Pineda, Carlos Nevarez and Lynette Escobar. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

The four scholars are Maria Ruiz-Pineda, Lynette Escobar, Carlos Nevarez and Ricardo Myers, and Carina Samano is the alternate. Ruiz-Pineda, Escobar and Samano will study in South Korea, Nevarez will study in Spain and Myers will study in Australia. The individual award amounts range from $3,000 to $5,000.

Ruiz-Pineda, Escobar and Samano will follow in the trailblazing footsteps of two UTEP sisters, Karla and Roxanna Sifuentes, who were the first UTEP students to study abroad in South Korea after both received Gilman Scholarships last year. 

An excited Ruiz-Pineda, a junior studying anthropology, said her family was very proud of her for earning a Gilman Scholarship. Thinking about how her study abroad would enhance her educational experience at UTEP, Ruiz-Pineda remarked, “I will be out of my comfort zone and therefore have to think and act differently than I do here in order to solve any challenges that may come my way. I will be able to see, firsthand, topics I have studied in my anthropology and economics classes." 

For Myers, a junior in the pre-pharmacy program, studying in Australia will continue his education and expand his cultural understanding and worldview. Having played the violin for nine years, Myers can’t wait to see the world famous Sydney Opera House and attend an opera.

He expressed his gratitude to the scholarship committee for “this great opportunity and giving me the chance to turn my undergraduate experience into an incredible and unforgettable real world experience that I will always remember and cherish for the rest of my life.”

Nevarez, a senior political science major, looks forward to seeing a soccer match in Spain. He wants to enhance his education at UTEP through this unique experience.

“A year ago I took a course that examined diplomatic and political issues in Europe, and now, in a few months, I will be able to witness those issues in person,” he said. “Having that opportunity will be akin to walking through the pages of my academic books, obtaining the opportunity only a blessed few in the world have.”

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is open to all U.S. citizen undergraduates in good academic standing who receive Federal Pell Grant funding, who will apply or be accepted into a study abroad program eligible for credit at the student’s home institution, and whose course of study will last at least four weeks in a single country.

All Gilman Scholarship recipients are expected to complete a Follow-On Project that promotes international education and the Gilman Scholarship Program on their campus.

When Escobar, a pre-nursing sophomore, returns from South Korea, she says her Follow-On Project will be “giving a presentation to Honors students on the benefits of study abroad and the Gilman Scholarship.”

Most importantly, the goal of the Gilman Scholarship Program is to provide opportunities to a diverse range of students, especially those who have not studied or interned abroad for undergraduate academic credit.

In addition to the general selection criteria, the program seeks to support students who have been traditionally underrepresented in education abroad, including but not limited to students with high financial need; students studying in nontraditional countries; students with diverse ethnic backgrounds; students from a diverse range of institutions including Hispanic Serving Institutions; and students with disabilities.

As these five students begin their studies across the globe, they will continue the tradition of excellence and international exchange that is one of the hallmarks of UTEP’s educational experience.

To learn more about studying abroad as a student, visit UTEP’s Study Abroad Office webpage or speak with someone in person at the Mike Loya Academic Services Building, Room 218.

For more Gilman Scholarship information, visit www.iie.org/gilman‎.