Tag Archive for: study abroad

Gilman Scholarship recipients

Two SOU students awarded prestigious Gilman Scholarships for study abroad

(Ashland, Ore.) — Two Southern Oregon University students have been awarded the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in the spring 2022 scholarship round to support their upcoming study abroad programs. The prestigious scholarships support U.S. undergraduates of limited financial means in pursuing study or internships in countries around the world.

Zion Blackburne of Rogue River, who is a digital cinema major with a minor in business administration, will study at Dankook University in South Korea. Tiana Gilliland of Grants Pass, who is double-majoring in business and healthcare administration, will study at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

The Gilman Scholarship Program, one of the largest scholarship programs for study abroad, is part of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It has supported more than 34,000 Gilman scholars traveling to more than 155 countries since its inception in 2001.

“We know that studying abroad can have a significant positive impact on students’ academic and career journeys, but many students automatically write-off the opportunity as financially out-of-reach,” said Ariel Bloomer, education and abroad advisor for SOU. “I’m glad that programs like the Gilman scholarship exist to boost access to international education and help our students grow critical skills, like language, cultural agility and comparative analysis.”

Blackburne, an SOU senior, will participate this year in Dankook’s seven-week summer program, which provides a unique opportunity for students to gain professional skills and attend classes. He will lead Korean university students in conversational English lessons during the first three weeks, followed by a four-week academic program in which Blackburne will take Beginning Korean Language and Design Strategy and Planning courses. He will have opportunities outside the classroom to explore Korean culture through activities such as kimchi-making, K-pop dance class, Korean tradition knot art and a Buddhist temple stay.

SOU has a longstanding relationship with Dankook University that dates to an original “Institutional Friendship Pact” in 1970. The connection is celebrated in spaces on the SOU campus including the Stevenson Union’s Dankook Room, which features Korean art and mementos exchanged from visiting dignitaries over the years. Dankook University students visit Ashland on exchange during the academic year, while SOU students primarily participate in their English-taught program over the summer.

Gilliland will spend her entire sophomore year abroad through an SOU exchange with the University of Nottingham, where she will be based in the Department of Philosophy. She hopes to learn more about the United Kingdom’s publicly funded healthcare system, the National Health Service, and use her study of ethics as a foundation for a career in healthcare leadership. Traveling from Grants Pass to Nottingham, Gilliland plans to make the most of her UK experience by joining student societies around her interests – particularly the University of Nottingham Skydiving Club, the largest of its kind in the UK.

The exchange with Nottingham is one of the newest in SOU’s portfolio. Ashland welcomed its first two exchange students from Nottingham during the 2019-20 academic year. The University of Nottingham is one of the UK’s elite research universities, with approximately 40,000 students in a dynamic city in central England. Exchange students to SOU come from Nottingham’s multidisciplinary Department of American and Canadian Studies, and take courses such as American Legal History, U.S. Foreign Relations, Health Care Policy and American Indian Identities while living in Ashland.

The Gilman scholarship is named for the late U.S. Rep. Benjamin Gilman of New York, who received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2002. “Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views but adds an enriching social and cultural experience,” Gilman said. “It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”

The Gilman scholarship is among the most competitive national programs for undergraduates seeking to fund their study or internship abroad experiences. Its scholarships are intended to make study abroad more accessible to outstanding and diverse American students who have high financial need and may not otherwise be able to fund an international, academic experience.

Applicants for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship must be undergraduates in good academic standing who receive a Federal Pell Grant as part of their financial aid package. Successful applicants receive as much as $5,000 to apply toward study abroad program costs.

Those who apply must identify a study abroad program that is the best fit for their academic, personal and professional goals, and complete a scholarship application that consists of three essays. Deadlines are in March and October of each year. For more information on eligibility and the application process, students can connect with the SOU Office of International Programs via email (studyaway@sou.edu).

Prior SOU Gilman scholars include Starlie Bertrand ‘22 of Ashland, who completed her bachelor of science in communication at the University of Calgary in Canada through National Student Exchange. While in Calgary, she took classes including Global Communications Governance, Communications History and Digital Rhetoric, and took advantage of her proximity to Banff National Park to spend plenty of time in the scenic Canadian Rockies. She hopes her experience abroad will help her launch an international career.

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Ruggerio-oviedo-study abroad

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Alena Ruggerio’s study abroad adventure in Spain

Through a recent study abroad program, 18 Southern Oregon University students and one professor set out to explore and experience the richness of Northern Spain’s culture.

Communication professor Alena Ruggerio organized and led the students on a three-month study abroad excursion to Oviedo, Spain. Ruggerio says the time she spent with her 18 “tesoros” (her treasures) was truly life-changing for her.

Ruggerio teaches courses in public speaking, argumentation and critical thinking, persuasion and other courses in rhetoric. She has received multiple honors and awards, including being voted “Most Warm and Welcoming Professor” by the Associated Students of SOU, and being a recipient of the AHA International Outstanding Visiting Faculty of the Year Award.

How do you believe study abroad experiences benefit students?
I think it’s one of the most important experiences that a student could have. Let’s start with how it enhances your coursework; it was amazing to be able to study something in the classroom and then be able to walk outside, and there’s the thing we’re talking about. We were watching movies in the rhetorical criticism class that were shot in Oviedo and everybody went “Oh my word! We were there! We lived there, right there!” So it brings learning alive in a way that you just can’t do while at a regular college campus.

Benefit number two, obviously, is that it helps you to be more marketable professionally. Because today you aren’t just competing against other college graduates in the United States, you’re competing against everyone across the globe. International study proves that you have an international perspective, and that you can engage in intercultural communication. The kind of person who has the courage, the tenacity and the open-mindedness to succeed in a study abroad program is the kind of person that employers want to hire. So it’s a really nice way to enhance your portfolio when you’re going out on the job market. 

And then the most important, as far as I am concerned, is that study abroad makes you a different person. You are not the same person when you come home as when you left and part of it is you see the world differently. You see your own culture differently, you see your own self differently and you come back with so many more personal connections.

During this study abroad experience, what was your favorite course to teach? Why?
I refuse to choose between the two courses because they were both great, but in different ways. One course I taught was called “Asturian Environmental Persuasion.” Asturias was the name of the region in north-central Spain that we were in, and they’re famous for their wildlife preservation and national forests. So wildlife protection and eco-tourism are big deals in this area. In that class, we studied those issues, and then I brought to the students my knowledge about persuasion strategies and theories. Then each student or group of students created an original persuasion campaign for their term project, where they created original artifacts of persuasion on behalf of a client to try to help them meet their persuasion goals. 

I also taught “Spain in Words and Images,” and basically, that was a Spain-themed version of my rhetorical criticism class. So I taught eight different critical lenses that they could use to analyze examples of public communication. Public communication could run the whole gamut from speeches, to stories, to poems, to songs, to advertisements and billboards, to websites, to social media posts, to architecture, to sculpture, to any kind of example of public communication. And then it was the students’ job every week ‒ and this was my favorite assignment of the entire term ‒ every week I would ask the students to go find some of those examples of public communication that had something to do with Spain and then they would present those to the class. So not only did we learn about how to analyze those examples of communication through these rhetorical criticism lenses, but we also learned a lot about Spain.

What advice do you have for a student who’s interested in studying abroad?
There are all kinds of study abroad opportunities happening all the time, and so my advice to a student would be, do some soul-searching and brainstorming to figure out: “What kind of things do I want to learn? Do I want to take language classes? Do I want to take classes in my major? Do I want to take more general-education university-studies classes? Do I want to have an internship experience? Do I want to have a homestay experience with a family? Do I want to live on a college campus in a dorm? How long do I want to be gone?”

There are study abroad opportunities that are as short as a week or two. So you could do a really short study abroad opportunity, or you could do something that’s a month or two over the summer, or you could do something that’s just a term (like what we did for three months), or you could do something for a year. So figure out how long you want to be gone and then have some idea about what part of the world you might be interested in. Think not just about the location where you will be living, but also where that location puts you in proximity to having additional explorations. And once you’ve thought a little bit about that, my advice would be to go to the Office of International Programs in the SU, and find out what your options are.

I read that you had the chance to visit cathedrals, museums and ancient places in Northern Spain. Were there any locations you weren’t able to visit that you were hoping to?
The travel writer Rick Steves has some really good wisdom about this. He says, “whenever you travel you have to travel with a mindset that someday you will be back in this place.” So that you can do the things that you didn’t get to do, and see the things that you didn’t get to see, because you can’t possibly put pressure on yourself to do and see everything, it’s impossible.

On the hill above Oviedo, on top of Monte Naranco, there’s this enormous statue called “al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús,” sacred heart of Jesus, and it looks over the city. We could see this statue from the university, we could see the statue from my apartment, and the hike up the mountain to get there is beautiful. The view down the mountain from the statue is really beautiful, so most all the students went on this hike up the mountain. I didn’t go, and I really, really wish I had. Unfortunately, I was planning to go up with two students finals week and it was raining. So I didn’t get up Monte Naranco and I really would’ve liked to have done that.

What did you personally gain from this study abroad trip?
My relationship with those 18 students means everything to me. This study abroad opportunity created an environment that is like nothing I have ever experienced teaching at a university in the States. Because it starts with the classroom interaction, and I got to have all 18 of them in both of my classes, which was wonderful because we always had a kind of everyday group meeting together. So we got to all learn the same things together, we had a common base of understanding of where we were at and what we were doing. I’m traveling with them on all of these group excursions, I’m going on all of these tours with them, I’m sitting in on their Spanish class and their Intercultural class. So between them coming to me, and me coming to them, we are each other’s world, basically, for three months. 

I feel like I got to know them in a way that I never get the privilege of getting to know students at SOU. I am certain that every student at SOU is equally as special as these 18, but these are the 18 that I got to know, and the 18 that chose this program are very, very special. And so, long after we come home back to the States, they will still be my tesoros, they are still my treasures, they are still and always will be special to me. That is the most important thing I got out of this trip.

Those interested in venturing into the unknown through a study abroad program may take Ruggerio’s advice and speak to an advisor in the SOU’s Office of International Programs. There are many opportunities waiting for those interested in travel, and SOU offers various forms of support as students explore their options.

Story by SOU student writer Sophie Passerini, @SophiePasserini

New Scholarship for SOU Study Abroad

The Friendship Force of Southern Oregon creates a summer study abroad scholarship
(Ashland, Ore) The Southern Oregon University Foundation received a study abroad annual scholarship from the Friendship Force of Southern Oregon. The organization’s annual gift will provide a summer study abroad opportunity for an SOU student. Junior Christina Burns is the 2011 recipient and will travel to Oviedo, Spain.
“I am honored to receive this scholarship,” said Burns. “Friendship Force of Southern Oregon’s mission is to create relationships with other countries, and learning about other cultures is so important.  I am happy to be a part of this mission.”
An organization rooted in cultural exchange, the Friendship Force of Southern Oregon promotes global understanding across the barriers that separate people through the values of mutual respect, cultural diversity and cultural exploration.
“Sending a student like Christina abroad supports our mission in the best possible way,” said Friendship Force President Amy Lepon. “We want to change the way students see the world.”
For more information about the Friendship Force of Southern Oregon Study Abroad Scholarship and other study abroad opportunities, visit the SOU International Programs website www.sou.edu/international/.  More information about the Friendship Force of Southern Oregon can be found at www.ffsoregon.org.