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12 USF Students Awarded Gilman Scholarship for Summer 2015
June 8, 2015

From Costa Rica to South Korea, 12 undergraduate students will travel to all corners of the world this summer for a range of study abroad programs after they were each awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The students will have the opportunity of a lifetime to be engaged with other cultures and languages, while furthering their studies related to each respective major.

Alexandra Bolen will study abroad in China as part of the Chinese Learning in the Culture -Tier I Language program. One of Bolen’s future goals is to employ her Chinese language skills to pursue opportunities where the U.S. and Chinese business worlds intersect. The Gilman Scholarship will enable Bolen to further develop her Chinese language skills through total immersion.

Bolen, a rising junior majoring in accounting, has recently stepped into the role of vice president of the Rowing Club at USF, where she gained invaluable firsthand experience on how best to manage her time as a student, athlete, and team leader.

As a senior majoring in English and minoring in criminology, Alexandra Erraei looks forward to expanding her passions for English literature and law abroad through the USF in London program. As Erraei shared, “This once in a lifetime opportunity will allow me to further develop my analytical research in profiling by seeing how places affect British authors’ while also learning about London’s transformation from an empire to an urban city.”

Erraei, who proudly describes herself as a full-time mom and a full-time student, would like to serve as an inspiration for other students facing financial obstacles by encouraging them not to give up on their goals.

Laura Flores will attend USF’s Argentina Human Rights Program through which she will further develop her interests in international human rights with a focus on Latin American countries. While in Argentina, she will be visiting human rights organizations and centers.

Flores, a junior majoring in English, was recently admitted into the USF English Honors Program. She looks forward to using her experiences abroad to lend insightful perspectives toward her thesis project on human rights narratives in Latin American countries.

Marco Funez is thrilled to have received the Gilman Scholarship as it has greatly eliminated the financial difficulty he faced when considering to study abroad. He will also participate in the USF in London program.

Funez, a freshman majoring in psychology, is looking forward to learning from the wide range of people he will encounter in London. He believes it is very important to be a globally sensitive individual and studying in a different country is his first step toward becoming a more culturally aware individual.

The Gilman Scholarship will support Islam Ibrahim’s future plans by offering him the opportunity to embark on an academic adventure through the USF Science in Florence program, where he will develop his Italian language and cross-cultural communication skills.

Ibrahim, a senior majoring in biology, is a volunteer at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, where he enjoys assisting physicians and witnessing how the medical field contributes to the wellbeing of local community members. Upon receiving the Gilman Scholarship, Ibrahim stated, “I can’t wait to be in a new country, especially one that I have always dreamed about visiting. I studied the Italian language for three years but never thought I would have the opportunity to be immersed in the language and culture on a daily basis!”

Moe Maung of USF Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM) will study genetics and physics at Yonsei University in South Korea. Maung is awaiting the chance to work with the esteemed faculty and collaborate with students on research in Seoul, a leader in technology, science, and social innovation.

A junior majoring in biology, he recently participated in a seven month Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the Mote Marine. He worked as a chemical analyst and caretaker of several Acropora cervicornus coral as part of the Mote Marine’s Ocean Acidification Program.

Maung is excited to establish connections with international students from around the globe in Seoul. While abroad, he intends to foster a pen-pal program between American and South Korean students to break racial barriers and embrace the cultural differences.

Myla Nguyen will also study abroad in South Korea, continuing her business-oriented academic pursuits at Yonsei International Summer School (YISS) in Seoul. Nguyen is very excited to develop her Korean language skills and explore the culture by participating in YISS’s linguistic and cultural immersion programs.

Last year, Nguyen, an Honors College junior majoring in marketing, led the Suit-A-Bull project for the Enactus organization, whose mission is to loan business attire to USF students at no cost. Her greatest accomplishment in this position was assisting more than 250 students in dressing professionally for spring 2014 career fair. In fall 2014, she became the executive vice president of the organization.

As a psychology major with an interest in working with Spanish speaking populations, studying abroad in Costa Rica will enable Tiffany O’Brien to develop her language skills.

O’Brien, an Honors College sophomore, is currently a volunteer Sunday school teacher for kindergartners at her church. She hopes to use her language proficiency in future outreach work with Spanish-speaking children and their families. O’Brien is most excited about the chance to learn Spanish through the immersive experience of living with a host family.

A junior double majoring in anthropology and public health, Lisette Ortiz is excited to study abroad in Costa Rica and learn about the country’s culture through an immersive experience. Ortiz has been involved in many service and leadership experiences at USF.  She is proud to have worked in Student Government as the university affairs coordinator and to have served on the USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement Lead Week Committee.

She is very grateful to the Gilman Scholarship as it has given her hope for the future. As Ortiz said, “I now know that if I set my mind to something, I can make anything possible.”

Stephen Peck will also venture to Costa Rica to learn the fundamentals of Spanish. He is grateful for the opportunity to practice his Spanish with a host family. Peck, a junior majoring in geology, transferred to USF from Hillsborough Community College.  He is a member of the service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, where he has served the community, the campus, and fraternity through service projects at soup kitchens, special needs sport events, and the local zoo and aquarium.

Studying abroad is a dream come true for Peck. As he reflected, “Traveling and studying abroad is something that I have always dreamed about, but I have never had the resources to do so. The Gilman Scholarship, however, has made it possible for me to go on this journey, and I will forever be grateful.”

Indira Ranaweera will attend the University of Connecticut’s Neuroscience Study Abroad Program in Salamanca, Spain.  As a student in USF’s seven-year, accelerated medical program, one of Ranaweera’s goals is to become fluent in Spanish before she graduates. Ranaweera, a rising junior in the Honors College majoring in biomedical sciences, is also a very service-oriented individual. She is the current president of the Honors College Student Council, a student ambassador for USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy, and a morale committee member for Bulls for the Kids, a student run philanthropy that benefits All-Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In Spain, she will take two courses: Learning and Memory and Medical Spanish. Ranaweera is certain that the coursework combined with the cultural experience in Spain will tremendously help her move toward her goal of becoming a well-rounded, more accessible physician.

Kathy Vu, of the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, will soon be fully immersed in the South Korean culture, studying the Korean language and basic marketing, and learning about creative business environments abroad. Vu is a junior majoring in general business with a concentration in management and marketing. During the 2014-2015 academic school year, she served as the vice president of the Campus Activities Board (CAB) at USF Sarasota-Manatee. Within this position, she worked with the CAB president to plan, promote, and execute many events on campus. Vu is also the public relations officer for the Latin American Student Association and a member of the College of Business Student Advisory Council.


Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply towards their study abroad program costs.  Recipients of the scholarship have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies — making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector.  All recipients are required to carry out a Follow-on Project to share information about the Gilman program within their university and community.

The Office of National Scholarships identifies, recruits, and mentors high achieving students to apply for national merit scholarships across all disciplines. The scholarships and fellowships are for creative, motivated, and academically strong students who are leaders in and out of the classroom. Students are encouraged to make an appointment online to speak with a scholarship adviser.