With rising travel and tuition costs, studying abroad can seem more like a dream than a potential reality for many students. But with the help of scholarships and grants, education abroad is accessible for any student including ethnic studies major Anna Wiig.
Since Wiig’s first semester at Colorado State University, she knew that learning about a culture first-hand was important to her. Over Spring Break of 2017, the nontraditional senior discovered a program to study abroad in Cuba, and without hesitation, jumped at the opportunity. With an academic focus in ethnic studies and Spanish, this one week program allowed her to take her studies of Cuban culture beyond her textbooks.
“Cuba was amazing,” said Wiig. “It taught me how to travel more with a purpose and understand my impact as a tourist.”
The Spring Break program was a perfect fit for Wiig, allowing her to learn about the cultural and social dynamics affecting Cuba. Race, immigration, sustainability, and globalization issues related directly to her ethnic studies major, giving Wiig an practical look to the world she only knew through her studies in Fort Collins.
As soon as Wiig returned from Cuba, she began researching other opportunities to study abroad. With help from her academic success coordinator and professors, Wiig discovered the Gilman International Scholarship – a grant program that equips students of low financial means the opportunity to travel abroad to study or complete an internship.
This scholarship program was established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000 and is currently funded through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the U.S. Department of State. With only a 27 percent selection rate, this prestigious program’s main goal revolves around giving students an equal opportunity to study abroad in different regions, become skilled in critical need languages, and experience diverse cultures.
Wiig submitted her application to the Gilman International Scholarship with an education abroad opportunity in Cusco, Peru in mind. Within weeks, Wiig was granted the scholarship, officially giving her the means to study abroad for an entire semester.
While abroad, Wiig became acquainted with the history and culture of Peru and advanced her Spanish language skills by being fully immersed in the Spanish-speaking country.
“The programs in Peru and Cuba really related ethnic studies lessons regarding race issues, immigration, and human and environmental sustainability. Studying abroad has vastly helped me better understand social frameworks that I have been able to apply directly to my schooling and future career goals,” said Wiig.
This fall, Wiig began a position as a peer advisor for the Office of International Programs to help other students navigate which study abroad opportunities are the best fit for them. After graduation, she plans to apply to the Peace Corps which would allow her to continue to travel and apply her ethnic studies degree in communities around the world.
“Traveling really fueled a passion in me and taught me to always be aware of how I do it,” said Wiig. “It opens up your thinking of your place in the world as a tourist and active member in a different society. I just want to be a positive character wherever I’m at.”
The Department of Ethnic Studies is in CSU’s College of Liberal Arts.