Italy, Summer 2019
“It is possible.”
I’m a first generation, Hispanic woman. I am a daughter of immigrants. I am a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminology and Latin American and Caribbean studies, participating in the USF in Florence program in Italy. If it wasn’t for grants and scholarships, I wouldn’t be on this trip right now. I am beyond grateful to be a Gilman Scholarship recipient. I remember the day I got the email. I cried in my room of happiness, in shock that I was one of a handful chosen for this amazing opportunity. I am so grateful to the Gilman Scholarship, advisors at USF, the Office of National Scholarships, and financial aid for allowing me to go on this trip! I hadn’t had a job during my time as USF because I wanted to focus 100% on my education. Although it was a struggle, my senior year I had no choice but to get a job because I wasn’t certain if I’d even receive scholarships or grants for this education abroad trip. Being a full-time student and having a full-time job was difficult but for sure worth it. I knew I couldn’t afford the trip, no matter how much money I made, but I made it a goal to make as much money as I could so I could accomplish a dream of mine!
From the beginning, I knew my family could not financially support my dream, so I made a go fund me page, applied to 24 USF administered scholarships and the Gilman Scholarship, and was in the Financial Aid Office just about every other day to see what opportunities I had so that at least a part of my trip was paid for. The money from Gilman, financial aid, and working was able to pay off my entire trip. I never thought it would be possible, but it was. Being a Hispanic female, studying abroad is something in my family that was never heard of, but I made it a goal to be a change in my family. Being the oldest of two, I do my best to be a role model for my younger sister who is sometimes my role model. I’m happy to demonstrate to her, Hispanics, other minorities, and females that IT IS POSSIBLE. With hard work, faith, dedication, and patience, it is all worth it.
I remember doing at least seven different rough drafts in preparation for the Gilman application. I didn’t understand why every rough draft wasn’t coming out good enough, but my ONS advisor, Lauren Roberts, was just preparing me to achieve the real reward - the Gilman Scholarship! I remember at one point I wanted to give up because I was a full-time student, working to help my mom and myself, but my sister pushed me to continue. I’m beyond happy I listened to her and my mom who have been my rock throughout the entire process. I kept telling my mom since last December that I wanted to study abroad. She thought it was just another silly idea I had. Little did she know, I was being entirely serious. As time got closer and she witnessed all the struggle in preparation for the trip, she knew I was serious.
My dad insisted on me taking the classes at USF. But I knew for me to grow, I needed to experience new things. I had to experience the world. I’ve traveled before to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, but never to a country that didn’t speak either English or Spanish. My dad was so skeptical about me coming to Italy. He just wanted me to be okay, as his first priority is my safety. I insisted on being as careful as possible, watching countless videos in preparation for what life would be in Florence: tips on not being a victim to pickpocketing, the new foods, and adjusting to the culture shock. I’m beyond thankful I participated in the one-week introduction to Italian culture program. Our class had the opportunity to explore Rome, Vatican City, Piombino, Pietrasanta, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Forte de Marmi, Massa, and a couple more cities. Our class got to hike, swim, bike ride, explore monuments and museums, gardens, and visit ancient tombs. Those are only a few things that we did! I’ve been here for 13 days and in total I’ve walked 85 miles. It has for sure been out of my comfort zone! In the words of my sister, “I am strong, fearless, and a determined young lady capable of conquering the world.” I will do anything I want to accomplish, no matter how hard it is. Every day I am growing. I can’t wait to see what I accomplish here and after this education abroad trip.
Tags: First-generation College Students, Latinx, Family, Finances, Gilman Application Process