As recipient of a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Martha Ocampo is one step closer to becoming a human rights lawyer as she heads to China this summer through Lone Star College-CyFair’s Study Abroad Program.
“More than anything, this scholarship was an answered prayer for me,” said Ocampo, who is studying international relations with plans to partake in the University of Texas at Austin’s dual master’s program in global policy and law. “I have always wanted to participate in a study abroad program, but financially it was not something that was feasible for my family.”
The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program offers grants to study abroad students with limited financial means for international study and with the intent to better prepare students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world. During the Spring 2011 application cycle, the Gilman Scholarship Program received more than 2,600 applications for more than 500 awards.
Ocampo said applying for this competitive scholarship was a team effort and she is thankful to “her team” including professors Robert O’Brien and Carolyn Ho as well as scholarship advisor Lina Quintero, enlisted to help obtain necessary documentation. Receiving the Gilman scholarship was both humbling and a relief as she said she felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.
“We believe Martha is the first Lone Star College System student to ever receive this honor in the 10-year history of the Gilman,” said O’Brien. “Martha, who is also getting one of the LSCS Study Abroad Scholarships, is a very driven student and is deserving of both the college and Gilman scholarships. It’s also quite an honor for LSC-CyFair as most of the recipients are from four-year universities.”
Financial need is only one of the challenges that Ocampo has faced in her academic journey. She originally moved from Miami in 2007 to attend the Art Institute of Houston. Shortly thereafter, she became extremely ill with Ulcerative Colitis.
“Little did I know it then, but I was about to embark on an arduous two-year journey of agonizing surgeries and even more agonizing recoveries,” she said. “During those two years I did a lot of ‘soul searching’ and realized that I wanted to become a lawyer. I promised myself that if I was able to regain my health that I would return to school and do my best to reach my full academic potential.”
After her last surgery in late 2009, she said she registered for Spring classes at LSC-CyFair because it was close to home and because it was economically viable.
“Enrolling at LSC-CyFair was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” said Ocampo. “Each semester I am blessed with professors who love what they do. The caliber of educators at LSC-CyFair, I feel, can compete with even the finest four-year university.”
And this summer, Ocampo will be studying in China for four weeks with seven other study abroad students and two of those professors, O’Brien, who teaches history, and Ho, who teaches Chinese.
“I have always wanted to learn to speak Mandarin and I could not pass up the opportunity of learning it in China, where I will have constant interaction with the language,” she said.
In addition, Ocampo believes participating in such a study abroad program will give her a competitive edge in being accepted into graduate school as well as aid her in her career.
“Study Abroad will help me sharpen the cross-cultural skills that will be crucial to me in my future career,” she said. “Potential employers like to see that you are not afraid to step out of your comfort zone and programs, like study abroad, help to reinforce that message.”
LSC-CyFair’s China Study Abroad Program to China provides students, not only the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be immersed in another culture, but to earn seven credits with two courses - Beginning Chinese I and World History I - combined as a learning community. For information on other LSC-CyFair Study Abroad programs, go to LoneStar.edu/study-abroad.
About The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program
This program broadens the student population that studies abroad; aims to encourage students to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations; supports students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad and seeks to assist students from a diverse range of public and private institutions from all 50 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. This congressionally funded program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and is administered by the Institute of International Education through its Southern Regional Center in Houston, TX. For information, go to www.iie.org/en/Programs/Gilman-Scholarship-Program.