Jason Loyola, a California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) marketing student who will be studying abroad this summer in Santiago, Chile, looks forward to the personal growth he will acquire while on his own in the South American country, but most of all he is excited about immersing himself in Chilean culture.
Loyola, who will leave for Chile June 18 and return Aug. 11, was the only CSUDH student awarded the congressionally funded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in spring 2015, and one of only 860 in the nation.
“I’m staying with a host family. I had the option of staying in my own apartment but I felt I wouldn’t experience much culture staying by myself, or the day-to-day life of Chileans. My Spanish is pretty broken, but I do speak the language,” said Loyola, a 24-year-old City of Orange resident. “I’m also excited about the culture shock. I’m going to learn what it’s like to wake up and do the things they do. From what I’ve read it’s a lot slower pace there. It’s more intimate and people say ‘Hi’ instead of burying their heads in their cell phones.”
The Gilman Scholarship Program helps better prepare lower-income undergraduate students, like Loyola, to “assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world” through educational and career-focused experiences abroad.
Loyola, who was awarded $2,500 to study in Chile, will attend Universidad Andrés Bello in Santiago with a course load heavily focused on cultural studies. Along with his class lecture and the time he spends with his host family and in the city, he will experience the local flavor at student mixers, through networking opportunities, and by being “introduced to many things and outlets to help me succeed at school and in life once I get back.”
The university’s International Education Center helps students through the process of selecting and applying for a study abroad program and assists them in understanding the costs associated and financial aid, scholarship and work study options available to them. For more information, visit the IEC in Room 136A of Small College Complex 1, call (310) 243-3919 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stumbling upon CSUDH’s study abroad programs and the Gilman scholarship much the same way he began attending college in 2008—“by sheer fate”—Loyola feels lucky and “extremely honored and blessed” to have been selected.
“My counselor brought it up, and it just kind of unfolded on its own. I had no intentions of studying abroad. In fact, I originally had no intention of even going to college,” he said. “Back in 2008, I thought I wanted to be an entrepreneur. Only God knows where I would be right now if I didn’t go to college. I graduated from high school at the worst economic time—there were no jobs out there. I went back to school out of fate. The next thing I knew I was doing pretty well and wanted more out of college.
“My parents, who are immigrants of Argentina and Mexico, feel their job is complete if they raised men with honor, respect, faith and integrity,” added Loyola. “Education was never a household pillar. They never cared about our GPA or SAT scores. It was only necessary that we graduate from high school and become blue-collar, hardworking Americans.”
Loyola finds it difficult to imagine what it will be like to study abroad for two months since he has never been away from home for more than two weeks at a time. His extended family will step in to help him adjust and expand his South American experience.
“I wanted to study abroad as close to Argentina as possible. That’s where my family is from and I’ve never been there before. When the study abroad trip is over I’ll be staying an extra month with family members in Argentina,” he said.
For students who are considering studying abroad, Loyola would advise them to not worry about the money, because “it comes and goes.”
“Move the thought of money to the back burner and go find out if you can get there and get it paid for. I come from a low-income family, so there was no way I could have come up with this money,” he said. “Some people think applying and getting a scholarship is a long shot, and don’t apply for that reason. So I applied, wrote the paper and the next thing I knew, I got it, and my entire trip was paid for. I knew that if i really wanted to go I’d find a way.”