Every Friday we take a break from our regular blogging schedule to allow the authors an opportunity to feature a certain topic they are passionate about. In the past you’ve read about art, however we have a number of Feature Fridays ahead. Through this and other future posts we hope you’ll enjoy reading, we hope to share with you our personalities, passions, and interests on a more personal level.

Travel changes people.  It fosters understanding and enriches our life.  As a seasoned traveler, this fact seems like second nature.  That is why traveling abroad can have a profound impact on a student’s life.

Thinking back to my time in college, I did not participate in my university’s study abroad program.  However, I was able to spend one summer in Bolivia through another organization on campus.  To this day, I attribute many life changing moments to my time in Bolivia.  If you visit a place for a week or so, you can easily disengage from the culture and just be a tourist.  But when you actually enter into a different culture, it is amazing what you actually learn about yourself, your own culture, the world and perhaps your faith. It was an amazing and difficult time. I had to grow up quickly and learned to take risks. It was a pressure cooker for seeing my weaknesses and shortcomings.  I started learning Spanish, which has helped me immensely.

In my day job, I work for a non-profit that hosts two grants from the Department of Education called Upward Bound.  During LBJ’s administration, Upward Bound emerged out of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in response to the administration’s War on Poverty.  The program is specifically designed for high school students who will be the first in their family to go to college and/or are low-income.  The goals are to increase the rates of secondary graduation and enrollment in and graduation from post-secondary education.

A few months ago, our office went to a conference. One of the breakout sessions discussed the benefits of first-generation students studying abroad.  I volunteered quickly to go to this session!  I love traveling and my students, so I was excited to learn.

This particular session was offered by a graduate student who was working at the University of Texas in Austin.  The initiatives from the University and staff to help first-generation students were amazing!  Their initial research along with other programs, shows that when a student studies abroad, their GPA will often increase as well as increase graduation rates. Traveling abroad could even help students secure jobs and summer internships later in their career path.  Traveling provides soft skills such as confidence, critical thinking, and helps makes connections to the world with their academic discipline.

If you know someone who is a first-generation student, or if you are a first-generation student and are interested in studying abroad, as soon as you speak with your advisor on campus, let them know that studying abroad is a goal.  Speak with the financial aid and the study abroad office to figure out your options.  Also, start looking up scholarships.  There are many scholarships that are specifically for first-gen. studying abroad.  Below is a list of scholarship links.


Gilman International Scholarship

The next two scholarship links are housed by UT-Austin.  Use them as a resource.

Global Assist and UT International Office Database