University study abroad programs were all but leveled by the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused them to vastly reduce their offerings or halt international travel altogether for the past two years. After that stretch of inactivity, however, programs at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are now back at full strength, hosting more than 200 students this summer to travel the world. Several of those students earned the opportunity thanks to rare scholarship funding.
Six Eagles, for instance, were chosen for highly competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships, offered by the U.S. Department of State, to attend faculty-led study abroad programs in Germany, Morocco, Japan and Switzerland this summer.
“In the 2020-2021 academic year, only 15% of Gilman scholarship applicants were selected,” said Brittany Davis, director of Embry-Riddle’s Office of Prestigious Awards and Fellowships. “Our office has intentionally focused on supporting Gilman applications because the scholarship provides access to study abroad for students with limited financial means who would otherwise not be able to afford study abroad.”
Those six Gilman scholars stand as only a small fraction of the total number of students enrolled in study abroad programs this year, though. Overall, Embry-Riddle’s 200-plus participating students represent a 72% increase in participation over 2021, according to Sue Macchiarella, director of Embry-Riddle’s Office of Global Engagement. In 2020, zero students traveled as study abroad programs were on pandemic hiatus.
“I was quite surprised to be at the numbers we ended up with for this summer,” said Macchiarella. “Especially since, when we started our marketing, many parts of the world still had stringent Covid policies in place.”
This summer’s swift return to action was helped in part by Project Global Officer (GO) programs, a Department of Defense initiative providing language and cultural immersion for ROTC cadets. Students studying Chinese will travel to Taiwan, while those studying Arabic will travel to Jordan. Additionally, Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus hosted its first-ever study abroad program this year: a trip for Operations Management students to Prague and Berlin. Embry-Riddle’s Office of Global Engagement also offered its first study abroad trip to Zambia this summer, and 11 Embry-Riddle Asia students visited the university’s Daytona Beach Campus this past May as part of a program that included tours and observation flights as well as visits to local theme parks and attractions.
“There is a lot more mixing of Embry-Riddle students from all the campuses now,” said Macchiarella. “In the global workforce, having international experience is a huge plus, giving a student the competitive edge over others who may not have had that experience. Students become better global citizens, they start to understand where they fit in this complex world, [and] they learn to become more independent, more confident, more empathetic and much better problem solvers.”
To Russia With Love
As a recipient of the prestigious Boren Award, which is funded by the National Security Education Program and focuses on fields deemed critical to U.S. national security, Global Conflict Studies student Alexis Laszlo will head to Latvia this summer to study Russian for six months as part of a non-faculty-led study abroad program.
“I will live with a few host families and attend a language institute for 25 hours a week,” said Laszlo, a senior set to graduate next spring.
After graduating from high school in DeLand, Florida, Laszlo served six years in the U.S. Navy, including a deployment in the Persian Gulf. She spent nearly a year afterward working as a long-distance truck driver before enrolling at Embry-Riddle. Driving for many hours each day, she used that time to think about what she wanted to study, and her interest always returned to Russian.
“I have taken it for two semesters,” said Laszlo, who served as president of the Student Veterans Organization on campus. “It is a tough language to learn, but I really enjoy it.”
Dr. Diane Zorri, assistant professor of Security Studies & International Affairs and program coordinator of Global Conflict Studies, said Laszlo is one of the most diligent and hardworking students she has ever had.
“I have no doubt she was chosen for the scholarship because of her overall maturity, competence, academic excellence and, most importantly, her dedication to learning the Russian language and commitment to using those skills to serve the U.S. government,” said Zorri, who is Laszlo’s advisor.
A Summer to Remember
Aerospace Engineering students Liz Bosch and Courtney Hoffman are using their Gilman scholarships to attend the Electrical Engineering in Germany program. Bosch, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, said the scholarship was critical to her participation in the trip.
“I have worked part-time and studied full-time, but the study abroad semester was going to be different for me because I was not going to have an income while abroad,” she said.
A member of the Society of Women Engineers, Bosch serves as the hardware lead of the Turtle Tech project, is part of the Emerging Leaders Program and is a tutoring coordinator at the Writing Center on the Daytona Beach Campus. Her goal after college is to become an engineer on international collaborations for space exploration.
“Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to engage with other cultures and strengthen my understanding of people whose lives are different than mine,” she said.
Maren Rice and Madeleine McCann both have Gilman scholarships to study Arabic in Morocco. Rice, a Global Security and Intelligence Studies major from Goodyear, Arizona, is on the Women’s Soccer team at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus.
“I believe my ability to balance university athletics, coursework, community service and employment each semester helped me stand out,” Rice said. “I plan to work as an analyst in the intelligence community, and this scholarship will contribute towards my progression on this career path.”
Two other Gilman scholars, Nathaniel Yardeny and Ziqian “Elliott” He, attended a study abroad trip to Japan and a physics program in Switzerland, respectively. Yardeny is an Aerospace Engineering student from Centennial, Colorado. He is an Aeronautical Science student from Rosemead, California.
For the first time in university history, Embry-Riddle’s Study Abroad and Study America programs, long operated at the campus level, were consolidated in 2021 to be overseen by university administration. This transition was meant to standardize and maintain quality for the many unique educational opportunities offered to Eagle students located all over the world.
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