UAB scholars study in Japan, Cuba, and France

By Tiffany Westry Womack

University of Alabama at Birmingham (Photo Credit: UAB.edu)

Four University of Alabama at Birmingham students are among 1,200 undergraduate students from 354 colleges and universities across the United States selected to receive the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

The Gilman Scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program aims to make study abroad experiences accessible to a more diverse population of students and to encourage students to choose less traditional study abroad destinations. It also gives students the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies — making them better prepared to assume leadership roles in government and the private sector.

Students are selected for the Gilman Scholarship through a highly competitive application process. The program receives more than 10,000 applications each year and awards about 2,500 scholarships. Gilman scholars are awarded up to $5,000 toward their study abroad or internship program costs. The program aims to support students who traditionally have been underrepresented in education abroad, including, but not limited to, students with high financial need, first-generation college students, students in STEM fields, students from diverse ethnic backgrounds and students with disabilities.

Kenneth Davis, a sophomore double-majoring in chemistry and mathematics with a minor in Japanese, is studying in Japan. Davis is a native of Selma, Alabama, and is in the UAB Honors College’s Science and Technology Honors Program. He is also a recipient of the Freeman-ASIA Scholarship to study abroad. Davis plans to obtain a master’s degree in mathematics before applying to medical school to become a neurosurgeon.

“Spending the summer in Japan is fulfilling a curiosity about Japanese culture that I have fostered since I was a child,” Davis said. “Now that I am able to actually live and interact with native Japanese speakers in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, I have learned that I am becoming more aware of the subtle differences between my home and Japan. It is my hope that proficiency in Japanese and a mathematics degree will make me a more marketable job candidate.”

Laila-Rose Hudson, a junior majoring in political science with a minor in philosophy and law, is studying in France. Hudson is a native of New Jersey and plans to attend law school to pursue a career in international law, adoption law, and child advocacy.

“My time in France this summer is helping me improve my language skills, which is important to my career because French is considered the language of diplomacy,” Hudson said. “I am learning so much invaluable information about other cultures, and I really believe it is making me a more well-rounded person.”

Jane Murphy, a senior foreign languages major with a concentration in French, is also studying abroad in France. In addition to her French major, she is pursuing a Fast Track Master of Public Health degree from the UAB School of Public Health. Murphy is capturing her experience through a video blog as part of her service project for the scholarship.

Stevenson Craig is a senior double-majoring in French and Spanish. Craig is spending the summer studying in Cuba. Craig says his time in Cuba is helping to improve his language skills and broadening his cultural awareness. After graduating, he plans to pursue a career as an interpreter or work in the field of second language education.