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    Posted March 16, 2014 by
    Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    A Glimpse Into My Study Abroad Experience, and Why You Should Study Abroad Too!


    My name is Raina Brooks and I am currently a Gilman Alumni Ambassador.  If it had not for the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of the State, I would not have been able to study abroad at the University of Cape Town in the fall of 2009. My experience in South Africa was absolutely life changing! I had the opportunity to not only study, but become fully immersed in the South African culture. Before speaking with my study abroad advisor, I thought that there was little to no chance that I would be able to fulfill my dream of studying in South Africa, as there were various challenges that I faced. One of the major challenges was financing my education abroad. Another was that my major was Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which meant that I had a lot of academic credit requirements to fulfill. My wonderful study abroad advisor was able to put me at ease after our first meeting. We found a semester and program that worked best for me and also found that I qualified for the Gilman Scholarship. This scholarship helped to alleviate the financial burden that I thought I would face. With help from the Gilman Scholarship, it was significantly cheaper for me to study abroad than it was for me to attend my home institution, Agnes Scott College.


    Every college student should look into studying and/ or interning abroad. My goal was to become fully immersed in the South African culture and what better way to do this than to participate in a homestay and get involved. While abroad, I was able to volunteer as a math tutor at one school and as a mentor to four very bright young ladies at another. On campus, I joined a religious organization and became part of a great big family! They welcomed me with many smiles and open arms. I still keep in contact with several of my friends from this organization. I also, became close friends with several of my classmates, one of whom became a great pen pal of mine. In addition to the wonderful people I met in Cape Town, I was also able to enjoy the absolutely beautiful scenery and amazing food the country had to offer!


    With America being a place that has a growing number of immigrants, refugees and visitors, I believe that it is extremely important for students to study and/ or intern abroad. By taking a step into another culture, you will gain a greater perspective of the world, and better relate to and understand people from other countries. You will learn so much and will gain a great appreciation of the culture of the country you visit and also of the United States. Since returning from South Africa, I have become an avid volunteer. I am currently working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and will pursue a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology this fall, which will equip me with skills that I can use both the in U.S. and abroad. My goal is to one day live in Cape Town, as it reminds me so much of my hometown, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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