Study Abroad (SA): Please tell us a little about yourself.
Kevin Buena (KB): My name is Kevin Buena and I'm currently in my junior year here at USF. I'm originally from Orange County, CA and I am majoring in Biology with a minor in Neuroscience. I am an active member in several organizations on campus including Beta Beta Beta (Tri-Beta) Biological Honors Society, Pre-American Medical Student Association (Pre-AMSA), and University Ministry.
SA: Please tell us about your plans for Spring 2014.
KB: For the Spring 2014 semester, I plan on studying abroad in New Zealand. I will be attending Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), which is in the heart of New Zealand's capital city. I will be finishing my core courses abroad which include Philosophy, Theology, and Literature. Aside from core classes, I plan to become active in some biology related programs and organizations at VUW. Some of these programs take excursions into the bio-diverse regions of the country in order to study the country's endemic species. I also plan on doing the typical "tourist" things such as sight-seeing at famous landmarks. I'll definitely visit the set of The Lord of the Rings too!
SA: How are you paying for this study abroad?
KB: Since I'm studying abroad with a sponsored program through USF, most of my funding will be coming from my financial aid. It will be as if I'm still attending USF, just in another country. I also received the Gilman International Scholarship which will help finance my housing accommodations in New Zealand.
SA: How did you hear about the Gilman Scholarship?
KB: I first heard about the Gilman Scholarship through my sister. My sister had studied abroad in Australia a few years before and she had applied for several scholarships. She said I qualified since I receive federal aid-specifically the Pell Grant.
SA: I've heard that most students do not apply for scholarships because of 3 reasons.
(1) They don't think they will win a scholarship, (2) They do not have the time to apply, and
(3) They think they have poor writing skills. Did any of these thoughts come to mind when you applied for the Gilman Scholarship?
KB: If anything, the only options that crossed my mind during my application process were #1 & #3. I knew that the Gilman Scholarship was a very competitive scholarship nationwide. I was scared that my application wouldn't be strong enough to compete with the other 3,000 students applying. In regards to #3, I don't consider myself to be a poor writer in any sense. The only thing I was worried about was making my essays sound personal to the reader. I didn't want my essays to be generic and have cliche sayings such as "I want to study abroad because it will help me understand other peoples cultures..." I wanted the readers to know ME and who I truly am.
SA: Your essay strategy worked. How much time did you dedicate to the Gilman Scholarship?
KB: In total, I think I spent about 2-3 weeks to complete the entire process. Most of my time was dedicated towards the two required essay prompts.
SA: I've heard that winning the Gilman Scholarship requires some type of service from the recipient after they return from their study abroad. What did you propose as your follow-up?
KB: For my follow-up proposal, my main goal was to show other science majors (especially Biology majors) that studying abroad (as a science major) is possible. Most science majors assume that studying abroad is impossible to complete due to our rigorous curriculum. However, that is not true. Upon my return, I plan on giving a presentation about my experience and the entire study abroad process during "Freshman Orientation Week" and "Parents' Weekend". From my presentations, I hope to show students that being a science major should not deter you from pursuing a trip abroad.
SA: Thanks, Kevin. Enjoy your study abroad in New Zealand!