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Junior receives Gilman scholarship to study in South Africa

May 11, 2012
Samantha Kobs
Samantha Kobs
EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire junior recently was awarded a scholarship through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program to study abroad.

Samantha Kobs, an education major from Deer Park, will study in South Africa for four weeks this summer. She will take three courses while she is there, which will focus on the political history, culture, art and media of South Africa.

While Kobs' family's financial situation made studying abroad a challenge, having an international experience was so important to her that she searched for scholarships to defray the costs. Through her search, she found the Gilman International Scholarship and quickly determined it met more than just her financial needs.

"I really value my education, and I knew that studying abroad would help me grow on an interpersonal level," Kobs said. "Since the goals of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program went beyond just providing financial assistance, actually coinciding with my own personal beliefs, I knew it was a perfect opportunity for me to express myself in hopes of being chosen."

As a future educator, Kobs said it is important for her to understand diversity in the classroom. She wants to bring her experiences in South Africa back to her students to cultivate an environment of learning and acceptance, she said.

Kobs chose the South Africa program because of its unusual and inspiring history.

"I want to understand the struggles that the people of South Africa have gone through," Kobs said. "More importantly, I want to learn about the techniques and ideals that they've used to unite the country and end apartheid. It's those forces and that unity that make South Africa such a wonderful place."

This sense of unity has inspired her to spread the feeling to others, Kobs said.

"There's something so powerful about unity and mutual understanding, and I would love to completely submerge myself in their culture and their history in hopes of learning more about myself and what I can do to spread this kind of hope," Kobs said.

When she returns to the United States, Kobs hopes to make a positive impact on her hometown. By giving presentations at the high school, contacting the local newspaper and submitting articles to the school newspaper, she hopes to help educate the students and the community about college and the Gilman program.

"I want them all to know that I, too, thought I could never do it, but that I discovered the wonderful resources out there, and now my dreams are coming true," Kobs said. "Beyond letting them know that it is a possibility, I also want the students to better understand why a more global/diverse knowledge base is important to us for the future."

The Gilman International Scholarship Program, established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, provides awards that allow American undergraduate students who receive federal Pell Grant funding at two- or four-year colleges or universities to participate in study abroad programs worldwide. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and is administered by the Institute of International Education through its Southern Regional Center in Houston, Texas.

For more information, contact Colleen Marchwick, study abroad coordinator in the Center for International Education, at marchwcc@uwec.edu.

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OJ/JB/DW

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