Ohio Wesleyan Students Awarded Funds to Support Semesters in France, Italy
Delaware, Ohio – Two Ohio Wesleyan University students have earned competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to study abroad during the upcoming spring semester.
Junior Joe Brush of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, will study in Florence, Italy, and junior Paris Norman of Cleveland, Ohio, will study in Paris, France.
Expanding Understanding in Italy
“I know from experience that surrounding myself in new environments and around people who come from a different cultural backgrounds results in profound personal growth and knowledge,” said Brush, a Pre-Professional Zoology major who plans to become a veterinarian.
“I have spent time observing both doctors and veterinarians,” Brush said. “I have come to understand that one of the factors that most limits the effectiveness of a health care provider is the extent to which they can relate and communicate with their clients. I can’t believe that there is any better way to garner understanding for other people and to learn how to better communicate with them than by immersing myself in a totally new culture.”
During his time at Ohio Wesleyan, Brush already has traveled to Germany for two weeks with the Ohio Wesleyan men’s soccer team and head coach Jay Martin, Ph.D. – an experience that helped him chose Italy for his semester abroad.
“By far the best and most memorable part of the trip was living with and getting to know our host families,” Brush said. “Struggling through conversations carried out in broken English and realizing how similar my values were to theirs was amazing.”
Brush said he chose Italy because he wants to learn another language and already has studied Spanish, which he hopes will be beneficial. His program is overseen by the American Institute for Foreign Study, which he calls “the perfect fit for me both academically and in terms of extra-curricular opportunities."
“Its course offerings include sociological, historical, linguistic, and artistic classes,” Brush said. “Not only are these in fields which I have not been able to explore as much as I would have liked during the first half of my college career, but most of them also incorporate the city itself. Through this program, I also can build on the service learning project I completed last year mentoring local youth.”
When he returns to Ohio Wesleyan in the fall, Brush also wants to mentor his fellow college students, showing them that science majors also can – and should – spend a semester abroad.
“Students planning to apply to graduate school are particularly likely to assume that travel learning cannot work for them,” he said. “My plan is to show how, with proper planning from the first semester on campus, any Ohio Wesleyan student can study abroad.”
Brush plans to create educational presentations to share with first-year students as part of their required “OWU Experience” (UC160) course to help them plan their path at the university.
Exploring Identity in France
“I am captivated by the fact that being ‘French’ as an identity can vary depending on the perspective of the speaker,” said Norman, who expects to pursue a doctoral degree and work as a historian after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan.
“For example,” she continued, “in French society, there has been a ‘problem’ of immigration since the start of decolonization. Similarly, as I considered which country to choose for studying abroad, I was faced with the realization that by being an African-American woman, I am willfully placing myself in a country where racism is prevalent. I am used to many forms of racism and prejudice perpetuated by systematic oppression; however, I do not know how to defend my place in society while using the French language. … Similar feelings of helplessness are undoubtedly felt by non-Western communities when they are unable to defend their cultures and human rights in France.
“I studied this phenomenon during a brief trip to France I completed while on a travel grant with my French professor and four other students,” Norman said. “I was given the opportunity to visit museums that served as examples of the efforts put forth by the French government to correct its past injustices, but I found it somewhat disturbing that a Western government has taken the initiative in speaking for non-Western countries.
“The travel grant allowed me a limited experience of the Francophone world in person for one week,” she said, “and I am very eager to return to France to gain more knowledge about the search for equality and justice experienced by others in French society.”
Norman was among a group that spent two weeks in France this summer as part of an OWU Connection-funded experience led by Mary Anne Lewis Cusato, Ph.D., assistant professor of Modern Foreign Languages. The group explored “A Collective Study of French Imperialism: The Cultural Tools and Consequences of Colonialism as Seen in Paris and Southern France.”
Like Brush, Norman also plans to help other Ohio Wesleyan students seeking to study abroad when she returns from her semester in France. She plans to create and conduct a series of essay-writing workshops to help others apply for Gilman International Scholarships and other grants and scholarships that require strong writing and editing skills.
“Throughout this process, I will reiterate to the students what I repeated to myself throughout the application process: They have the capabilities needed to earn this scholarship. I will continuously encourage them while sharing my mantra, ‘Try harder.’ Even though it is only two words, my mantra motivates me to double my efforts when I feel as though I want to give up, and it has not failed me yet.”
The Gilman International Scholarships earned by Brush and Norman are provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The bureau fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries to promote friendly, sympathetic, and peaceful relations. The grant program is administered by the Institute of International Education.
Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors and competes in 25 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through Ohio Wesleyan’s signature OWU Connection program, students integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.